I smile, sometimes, thinking of how I liked the old Byrds tunes
Back in my seminary days, for I have come to know
(As much as anything through these hostas and damned dandelions)
That there is very much a season for all things, for our run in this plane
Is strictly proscribed, and having the end date somewhat fixed
A blessing from God, in fact, for it makes one focus on those things
That are truly meaningful, to appreciate when
There is the need to make fine gradations
(For if you plant the peas and parsley just a day—indeed, mere hours—
Too early, an unexpectedly still and cold night can steal all of your labors,
Leaving you with tiny, lifeless shoots slumped over the lip of a clay pot)
And when not to waste sound and fury over the most trifling of things;
For, when the final ascertainment is made, it will not be as an audit,
(With Saint Peter himself staring over his glasses as he punches the calculator,
Clucking as he reviews the number of bottoms in the pews,
The weight of the collection plate, the state of the cement or flagstone
Leading to the stairs of the cathedral), but a too-long movie,
With the most seemingly most insignificant of scenes
Screened several times (if it please God) for your viewing pleasure.
For I have sinned, yes, most exceedingly, dear Saints and My Lord,
In lack of thought and foresight, in the expedient holding
Of my tongue, in the unthinking failure to act.
Mea maxima culpa.
Blessed Virgin, I cannot, in the self-serving pride
Of my guilt, ask you to pray for my soul,
But I would pray that, perhaps, I will have had the briefest of moments
Where I was not totally unworthy.
I was, at one time, (it seems a different lifetime to me now)
Part of the Bishop’s diocesan staff in Boston,
Great city of pristine churches (surrounded by blooms
Of all the colors He could bring) and shanty Irish
As rough as the day the boat landed; one size Fitz all,
The joke was back in those days. I was not, certainly,
One of the rising stars in the hierarchy—not a “man to watch”
By any means—no, my function was much more prosaic.
My nickname, at the time, was “The Bishop’s Travel Agent”,
For my function was to find a place for those priests
Who had become (in the vernacular) “troublesome”.
Father Abbatachio had become somewhat too involved
With his younger female parishioners? Well, then,
Off to some small Adirondack village, and good luck to finding
Any women under fifty and with a full set of upper teeth.
Father Koufos insists on saying the mass in Latin?
Surely, there’s a Jesuit university where he can end his days
Nattering over verb tenses and inflections.
Father DiVincenzo a bit conservative and aggressive
For the more secular (and upscale) congregations?
To the south side of Pittsburgh, then; the Hunkies will love him!
Father Cavanaugh has evidenced a bit of
An altar boy problem? Well, there’s a convent in
In the Berkshires which has an opening we can slide him into.
Well, we were (so I told myself) being judicious,
And all in the best interests of the Church,
For (ah, what a man can make himself believe) it was
Always greater than the sum of its parts.
Well, one time we were wrong, horribly wrong;
There was a suicide, whispers, letters that should have been burned.
Many of my colleagues complained, bitterly, that I had been made
An unworthy scapegoat for the Bishop, but I knew in my soul
That they were, in that assertion, merely halfway correct.
Yet perhaps I will—no, indeed, I must—be saved,
For our Lord is good, and Christ shall have mercy,
And exchange this long walk through foolishness and vanity
With life everlasting, even for those of us
Who have stumbled along clumsily, unthinkingly, unheedingly on Your creation.
It is good, then; the days have been dry
And unusually warm, the nights cool
Yet without the danger of frost.
The beans and tomatoes should thrive,
And the sunflowers should grow…well,
Like sunflowers, I would surmise.
As for myself, the good days are examples
Of His grace, the bad ones no more than I can bear,
And the doctors (mere men, after all) minister to me
As well as men can. I have, blessedly, no fear
Concerning the close of my small one-act play
On this patch of earth. Indeed, I am often cheered
By the fact that I have seen small green shoots rising from the years
Of fallen leaves I have raked up and dumped
Upon the brush lot between the church itself
And the old graveyard at the rear of the property.