Kyrie Eleison

Stepping into the dim interior of the church from the glare of bright sunlit sidewalk, Paul pauses a moment to let his eyes adjust. Even before he can see clearly, the familiar sound of the softly playing organ and the lingering smell of incense greet him and remind him of earlier visits.

His eyes adjust, and he crosses the narthex with its pamphlets, hymnals and donation box.  One of last Sunday’s bulletins lies crumpled on the floor. As he enters the nave of the church through the large ornate double doors, years of programming push Paul’s right hand out to seek the holy water font.  The touch of the cool water on his fingertips brings him back to the present, and as if he'd been scorched by the water, he pulls his hand back and shoves it into his pocket. 

Paul spots an open space at the end of a pew near the back of the church, and takes a seat, genuflecting before he does. Old habits die hard.  He leans back to wait,  his eyes taking in the vast space before him, and once again he is carried back. 

His first memories of being here, the only good ones, are filled with color.  His mother often brought him along when she came to St. Jude's for her First Friday novenas or Stations of the Cross.  He'd been enthralled by the magnificent windows.  As it did now, sunlight streamed in through those tall, jewel-like panes and turned the church into a kaleidoscope like the one he had at home.

Though Dr. Abramson had urged Paul to come back, he just couldn't bring himself to return until last week.  The memory of  that visit was filled with color, too. 

The rows of church pews are nearly completely filled with mourners dressed in dark, somber clothes.  The organ plays accompaniment to the soft sounds of weeping.  Every now and then, he catches the murmurs of the people seated around him.  "Such a tragedy.  Who would do such a thing?"  Father Benedict had been beloved by the faithful.  Most of them, anyway.  The flowers filling the front of the church are testimony to that.

Paul hears the doors behind open.  As the liturgical music swells, filling the church with mournful sound, he watches the pall bearers solemnly escort the white and gold satin-draped casket down the long aisle to the altar.  After they have taken their seats, the priest raises his hands toward heaven and begins to lead the congregation in prayer.

Absolve, Domine,
animas omnium fidelium
ab omni vinculo delictorum
et gratia tua illis succurente
mereantur evadere iudicium ultionis,
et lucis æternae beatitudine perfrui.

Forgive, O Lord,
the souls of all the faithful
from all the chains of their sins
and by the aid to them of your grace
may they deserve to avoid the judgment of revenge,
and enjoy the blessedness of everlasting light.

Too late for that, Paul thinks.  Still, it might not hurt to go to confession when all this is over.  

He hasn't been since he was a kid, but he can picture kneeling in the dark confessional, whispering through the little screened window in front of him.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  It has been thirty years since my last confession.


This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory, where the prompt is “Softly-Spoken Bullets; Hardly-Spoken Lips."


  1. I want more. I thought I had stumbled upon a book you had written when I first started reading....then it ended....too soon.
    Wonderful writing.


  2. This is one of your best.

    Got a dialog note, though (a general one, not necessarily specific to this). Email.

  3. I so love the way you write. This one brings back memories of my Catholic upbringing - the comfort of the routine and ritual, the mystery of the Latin Mass - and the memory of the starkness of the Mass in English. I was an Altar Boy. And later, I was a Choir Boy. I had Christmas solos and I always sang High Mass at Noon on Sunday. And I sang all the Funeral Masses. For money.

    I used to be a good Catholic boy.

  4. PG: Thank you! A book, huh? That's high praise. Writing books might be problematic for me because they'd all be about this long. :-)

    Jeff: Thank you. If I am improving, you can take a lot of credit (she said, excitedly).

    Lou: Thank you, Brother. I had a feeling you would relate.

  5. Wow! Patti, very good. I agree with Prayer Girl ... certainly this piece could be extended. November would be the month to try:

    Excellent piece ... we want more ....

  6. nice patti...this one wet my whistle for more as well...make sme wonder the connections...why did hte doctor send him back...do please tell us...smiles.

  7. Oh, did this bring back memories. Another thing in common- that Catholic upbringing. I loved it all, esp. High Mass- singing, vestments, incense, the latin and those beautiful windows! I liked the story and the glimpse into his familiar world.

  8. kind of makes me itch to get back in a pew...but parking is a hassle. Good stuff!

  9. Jamie: Thank you for liking this, and for thinking I might have a novel in me. I think NaNoWrMo is probably a little too ambitious for me at this point. The longest piece of fiction I've written was about 3,500 words. 50,000? Yikes!

    Brian: You know, facing your demons and all that. ;-)

    Mary: Thanks. I'm glad it took you back to good memories. Speaking of those windows, do you know the story of the windows at Chartres Cathedral in France?

    Tom: Thank you! Yeah, the parking is a pain. Yeah, yeah, that's it.

  10. I too think that there is much more to the story here Patti. You opened up so many threads to follow; therapist - what demons to slay?, funeral - what relation to the slain priest?, confession - what sins has he committed? I sense at least a part 2 my dear. :)

  11. kkrige: Oh, you all challenge me so. ;-) Who knows, maybe Paul will have something more to say at some point.

  12. Paul hath slain the wicked priest who remaineth dead inside his flower-laden box.

    I like it. Very much.

  13. I don't know the story of the windows. What is it?

  14. Angel May: Thank you. I'm glad you liked it.

    Mary: It's a cool story! I'll write about it on my "home away from home" blog, and let you know when it's posted.

  15. Not sure of the Dr connecction, but if he knew Paul knocked off the priest, would he not be an accessory? He would be over here ...

    Yep ... I sense more to this story too.

  16. Hi Patti!

    I really like how this took me on a journey from thinking it was a person coming in for a quiet prayer by himself, to realizing it was for the funeral.

    Very very intriguing, will it remain a mystery, or continue, I wonder.

    Lovely details painted here, thank you.


  17. Julie: It would fall under "doctor-patient privilege here."

    Jannie: Thank you!

  18. Wow Patti this is very different for you. Beautifully written and succinct. I disagree that we need more, it's what's not said that makes it so disturbing and effective. Well researched and beautifully verbalised. I'm pretty intimidated by this muse I must admit but you've made the point so well.

  19. This is really really good! I love the new direction! Good job!!

  20. I very much like the touch of Latin and translation. I think I would have liked to see more internal dialogue from Paul? Maybe a first person perspective? I don't know. I really like the piece and just want to delve a little deeper into Paul's psyche without it being obvious, and I think you'd be great at that.

  21. "and where the offense is, let the great axe fall." Bill Shakespeare.

  22. This captures a great many truths.


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.