Nan strolled along St. Charles Avenue, a lonely figure in the fog. She hadn’t planned to walk far, just a couple of blocks or so to clear her head. “Something isn’t right.” She spoke to nobody in particular, just to the passing traffic. She made one turn and then another and suddenly was on the edge of the warehouse district. She read a small plaque on an adjoining brick wall. “St. Zita’s Cathedral. Wow, I must have walked further than I thought.”
Nan McHough was a reporter for the New Orleans Herald Bagatelle, a competing newspaper in the old city. However, the Bagatelle tended to feature the more sensational side of the news. Her morning walk was the result of her discontentment of being the subject of interest in the homicide of a local street person.
The cold brick of the cathedral contrasted to the warm damp air around her. She made her way to the front entrance and pulled on the door. To her surprise it swung open. She had been to St. Zitas many times before, but never on a foggy September morning.
The musty smell of the old church tickled her nose as she stepped into the vestibule. As her eyes focused in the darkness she could see others moving about in the sanctuary. She was not Catholic but slipped into a pew near the back of the room.
The statue of St. Zita was surrounded by candles as were a number of other places in the sanctuary.
Nan felt a kneeling rail next to her shins. Seconds later she collapsed to her knees and began praying softly. Her long brown hair draped over the pew in front of her and her forehead touched her folded hands.
“Lord, is heaven waiting for me? Why am I here? Am I such a sinner that I can go no longer in this life? Why don’t You just take me away right now? Tale me before I harm someone or before I fall so far from grace that You will never want me in Your presence. Forgive me Lord, my sins I know mount like snow in the mountains. I am not worthy to even be in this Holy place, but You already know that.” A tear ran down her cheek, but she caught it with her index finger. Another tear followed.
She glanced around the sanctuary, the ghost like movement of a handful of people around the altar distracted her for a split second. She bit her lip, but emotion suddenly overcame her.
“Precious Jesus, what am I to do?” Tears gushed from her eyes and she felt her body heave.
“Ma’am, are you okay?” A young male voice over her shoulder startled her.
Nan jerked her head around. The pale face of a young priest was crouching at her side. “Uh, oh, like, uh, I was just praying.” She paused for a second. “And, feeling sorry for myself.”
“Oh, I’m sorry I disturbed you.” The young man straightened from his crouched position. “But, if you would like to talk.” He smoothed his gown. “I’m Father Bossest.”
“Oh, I’m not Catholic. I’m sorry I barged into your church.” Nan started to get up.
“No, please, you are welcome here to pray. This is God’s sanctuary, and last I heard, he didn’t give out name cards at the door.”
Nan felt the heat of embarrassment flood her face. “Thank you, but I really should be going.”
“You’re welcome here anytime.” The young priest stepped aside so Nan could exit.
When she stood she noted that she was considerably taller than the priest. “I can find my way out.”
He leaned on a pew back. “Interesting way to put it. From what I heard you are having a difficult time finding your way out of something.”
“Oh, you heard.”
He chuckled. “Only the last part and the sobs. But, child, the Lord heard every word, and believe me, no matter what, when the world sets against you, He is on your side.”
Nan extended her hand to the priest. “Thank you father.”
He took her hand. “Drop in anytime and we can talk over coffee. But, do understand, anytime a prayer from the soul is issued, the Lord hears it – here at Zita’s or anywhere. God be with you.”
Nan released the priest’s hand. “And with you also.” She pushed through the cathedral door and onto the street. The fog had lifted somewhat.
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