The priest lit a cigar after a dinner of pork roast with dried cherries. A most amusing thing had happened and he wished he had someone to tell (he even fingered the cellphone on the linen tablecloth before him, trying to imagine whom he might ring up with this anecdote). A man had come into his confessional and asked if the priest understood English. Of course, he replied. It has been so long since my last confession, etc., the man mumbled, the old form giving away how long it had been in any case (Father had studied canon law at the seminary in Youngstown, Ohio when he was a young man and so he was aware of some of the goings on in the states beyond those that CNN showed you.)|
"What I want to know is what sense it makes to travel," the man said, "I mean what does it add to a life if someone has been to Vienna or Prague or Quito? what does it add to creation? Or, to put it differently, is there any heavenly purpose to our experience?"
"Do you have a sin to confess, my son?" the priest asked.
"That depends on the answers to my questions, doesn't it?" the man replied wisely, "If there is a divine purpose to travel, then no. Or at least not that sin. If there isn't any value to what one does I suppose I am guilty of dissipation."
The priest had briefly considered asking the man to share a bottle of the local red wine and dinner. It had been quite some time since anyone had engaged him philosophically. He shared his gratitude with the man as he attempted to engage the question, though at the last he did not mention dinner. It wasn't easy to see through the screen whether the person on the other side was a madman.
The priest tried to recall the biblical story of the man who had squandered his talents but he could never keep the details straight and in any case didn't quite understand the point of it. Instead he asked about other sins.
There were the usual inventory: adultery, lies, small frauds, disloyalty to friends, occasional despair.
He offered absolution and a penance of Paternosters.
"Could I say Hail Marys instead?" the man asked.
"Of course," the priest said, amused.
The priest waited awhile for more penitants and when no one else came he switched out the light in the confessional box and stepped out into the church. His Haily Marys having long been said, the philosophical fellow was gone. The priest came over to the rectory where the housekeeper had left dinner to warm in the oven.
Aware of the difference between us, fingering (like the very fine yarn used to knit or crochet), reaching across to close the space and defining it in the process.