Father Kieffer is puffed up with pride.
Today there are only two kinds of people,
the Catholics and the wannabes.
John Paul II has died.
“My fellow monks,” he intones.
I try to find a comfortable position
on the organ bench.
Maybe I can put my elbow on the radiator
and lean against the wall.
This sermon is going to be longer than usual.
When you have volunteered to be
the church musician for Catholic Mass
at Oakhill Correctional Institution,
you expect to see a prison.
But when you turn off County Road M
onto the long winding tree-lined road
and pause to exchange glances with
deer and their fawns,
and when the guard drives you in his minivan
to the little A-frame chapel
and you pass quaint stone cottages
nestled in masses of spring flowers
that are blossoming long before yours at home are,
and you pass large gardens ready for planting,
you don’t think you’re in a prison,
but you are.
“My fellow monks, I call you monks because that is what you are.
Ora et labora.
Monks spend their days in work and prayer.”
Easter Week was the perfect time
for John Paul II to die,
this man who spent his last years on the Cross.
Dying during Lent would have said one thing,
dying during January would have said another,
but dying when our songs
are filled with Alleluias,
dying when the stone cottages at Oakhill
are dressed in lilies and tulips and crocuses,
that says the best thing of all.