The Priest Came In

Another poem based on a true story: a visit to an elderly man inviting him to the parish mission, a time of faith renewal.

The subject of this poem is not a lost soul, but a soul lost, lost to the Church. And small wonder…

The old man looked at me with such hostile eyes;

He listened to my god-pitch with ill-veiled disguise.

And then told me his tale without a hint of tears:

He hadn’t been to church for well-nigh sixty years.

~ ~ ~

As a boy at primary school the priest came in,

And lambasted the class for each and every sin.

And then to ensure the lad’s unending dismay,

Asked who hadn’t been to church that Sunday.

~ ~ ~

As chance would have it (whether they lied or not,

The first one to own up was going to cop the lot),

He had borne the reverend’s righteous wrath:

And paid dearly for the honesty of being caught.

~ ~ ~

Hauled out before his peers and then subjected

To a rabid rant from a clerical bull seeing red;

A rant that lasted till the end of class; eternity,

So it seemed to a child seared by adult cruelty.

~ ~ ~

As he told his tale you knew he was back there,

Aged just ten, feeling keenest fear and despair.

That public tirade had made lasting impression:

He’d never willingly go to mass or confession.

~ ~ ~

What sad mentality ruled in those distant days?

Or does hindsight trick us through time’s haze?

How could faith be inculcated by fear and guilt?

How on earth the Kingdom of Love be built?

~ ~ ~

What use are apologies for such abuses done?

How to redeem hearts turned against the Son?

What is the net of the Church’s good and evil?

Does God whitewash the sins of pious people?

~ ~ ~

And what of our elderly oh so hostile chap?

Would my sincere invitation bring him back?

Or did the weight of woundedness he carried,

Really mean that nothing could be remedied?

~ ~ ~

“You stand here Father, asking me to go back?

I will NEVER forgive that god-awful attack.

If there is a God, then I don’t give a damn.

Let Him do His worst – I am who I am.”