The Benedictines built the rock wall surrounding their monastery. It was five feet tall. Each rock picked from the roadside in spring. Each rock culled for its regular shape and its shade of brown, gray, or gold.
Father Martin used it as an example of celebrating God through work. A graying man, his eyes were horned-shaped rays darkened by his tan, and enlarged by his wire rimmed glasses. Fall was his favorite time of year. As the rocks warmed in the sun and cooled in the shade, he would become philosophical. Pointing to the wall, he’d say, Faith is like those rocks, its heats up — cools — and grows warm again.
Other times he spoke from his heart. Celibacy is a superficial argument. Of course men like woman. God made it so. Don’t use women as your excuse not to become a priest, or blame them for your loss of faith. If you need proof of God’s existence, watch a sunset. None of God’s other creature’s can appreciate a sunset. — Not birds. dogs. horses. Cats don’t admire a bird’s feathers — they don’t wear them in their fur. God only lets man see beauty because it’s God’s way of revealing himself. Mark my words. Everything is beautiful because beauty is God, and he’s in everything.
The Mississippi south of Saint Louis.
The Souix Saint Marie in October.
The Grand Canyon from a tent
along the banks of the Colorado.
Santa Fe. Niagara Falls. Puebla, Mexico.
Coyotes standing in the shade of a surgarro.
Quails pecking through oak leaves.
Red tail hawks. Golden eagles. Gray whales
blowing off the coast of Baja.
Sometimes holding a handful of duff,
I watch a spider crawl from the rubble
and wonder why I don’t feel God’s presence.
Sometimes, I wonder if I ever felt him.
Once maybe in December.
On the steps of St. Joseph’s.
At twelve or thirteen.
Two feet of fresh snow had fallen.
A light snow continued.
Mother came outside.
The street light lit up her hair.
She placed a gloved hand on my shoulder.
Kissed me on the forehead.
Her breath smelled of Certs.
A light snow continued to fall.
Confined as I am between the bricks
and bones of my church and head,
it is hard to feel comfort;
and faith is always on the other side
of stained glass windows, carved doors,
and the crucifix with blood dripping
from the toes of the Son.
Sometimes I become fearful
when I believe I’ll rot alone in my grave.
Sometimes I’m anxious of my body
testifying against me
when I alone with God.
Always I’m half and half,
knowing the light of stars passes through me,
and heaven is full of saints.