01 October 2005

Gem from O.P.


I just love O. P. Kretzmann. This is a real gem of a piece he wrote years and years ago. Brings to mind, with tears, cases I know of today... It's called "Compline"...

Mr. Hieronymous Smith called the meeting of the voters of St. Chrysostom’s to order... As the buzzing subsided, he looked into the corner where the pastor sat... This was not going to be easy... He cleared his throat: “This meeting was called on account of the special request of some members who have something to bring up... I will give the floor to Mr. Barnabas Harmon”...

(Pastor) Somehow he was even more tired than usual this evening... The strong coffee Mother had given him just before he left the house seemed to have no effect... He closed his eyes for a moment... Thirty years now... The day when he had come to St. Chrysostom’s... The crowds... The good wishes... The little wooden church over on Elm Street... A long time ago now... This parish house – he had paid for it with his blood... His heart had never been the same since that breakdown... The church next door... Something of him lay buried there... He had watched every stone go into it... Perhaps God had really been good to him... The dreams of his youth – some of them had come true... He had not failed his Lord... If he could only keep going a few more years... Some things still needed to be done at St. Chrysostom’s... Not old yet, but tired... Better listen to Barnabas...

“We all know, Mr. Chairman, that things haven’t been going well at St. Chrysostom’s... Maybe its nothing serious, but only last week the Bowling League busted up on account of some members do not like the way the pastor always comes around and asks them to come to church... Only a couple weeks ago, one of the young men in the church – a fine, up-and-coming young fellow, Mr. Chairman – says to me that the young people are beginning to go over to St. Elijah’s... It seems they have a young fellow from Styx College, is right in there with them... And so a couple of us got together, Mr. Chariman,” -

(Pastor) If he could only keep his eyes open now... He peered over at Barnabas... The boy had really turned out better than he had expected... He remembered him in confirmation instructions, a good boy, only a little slower than the rest and always too sure that he was right... A little jealous, too, of others who had more than he... But he had prospered... Assistant Manager of the Feltman Shoe Company now... A little too fast for his age, but his well-made suit fitted him snugly... Perhaps he had better talk to Barney one of these days... Something worldly and smug about him... After all, Barney was one of his boys... His eyes closed again... What had Mother said before he left the house?... Oh yes, “If you get sleepy, pinch your wrists.”... He smiled... That was Mother, always worrying...

“And so, Mr. Chairman, a couple of us got together at my house, nothing official of course, and sorta talked things over... We all know what our pastor has done for our church... I don’t haveta go into that... But, Mr. Chairman, time marches on, as the poet says, and our pastor, it seems to us, is getting along in years... St. Chrysostom’s is a big parish, and we got some very important people here”...

(Pastor) Important people... How his mind was wandering tonight... That word “important”... There were some in St. Chrysostom’s alright, but Barney wouldn’t know that most of them lived down by the railroad tracks... Saints, some of them, like Mrs. Morton with her drunken husband and six children and her eyes bright with unshed tears... Saints down there... Perhaps he had been spending too much time there lately... He liked to sit in the broken rocker and listen to Grandpa Jepson... He was blind, but he saw more than anybody else... Mother had scolded him for it... She was right, too... Of course, he had tried to find an excuse... Wasn’t it true, he had asked Mother, that every evening there was a meeting, and if he went out in the afternoon to visit the members on the street where Barnabas had built his new house, he always ran into bridge or cocktail parties, and everyone was embarrassed?... Yes, it was easier to go see Grandpa Jepson – and he had taken the easier way... That was bad... Mother was right... More visits on Grace Boulevard after this...

“And so, Mr. Chairman, we think the Church Board ought to see the Pension Board and ask them to put our pastor on the retired list... We have always paid our percentage, and they ought to be glad to help us out... What we need here is a young fellow with lotsa pep and salesmanship who can give a sermon with punch and arrange affairs with zip in them to draw the people in this here community... Of course, we don’t want to be in a hurry about this... Let’s take two or three months to look around... But, Mr. Chairman, something’s gotta be done” -

(Pastor) So that was it... It had come now, and somehow it did not hurt as much he thought it would... After all, he was getting old... Over sixty... When you get old, things look different... Barney wasn’t important, not really... His soul was, but somebody else would have to see to that now... Perhaps Mother and he could live on the edge of town in one of the little bungalows the Government was renting so cheap.... Then he could still go down to see Grandpa Jepson and Mrs. Morton and the redheaded Johnson boy, who would make a good minister some day... But Mother... How would he ever be able to explain it to her?... Mother was always so practical... She would tell him right away that all they had was the furniture and a thousand dollar insurance policy... Oh well, that would be hers – and the way he felt tonight – soon enough... He looked around the room... Hardly a man there whose hand he had not touched at the altar on thirty-one confirmation days... He had baptized their children, seen their hopes crushed and rise again, stood with them as death swept over them... They looked a little uneasy now... Waiting for him to say something... He really should... Tell them they were doing the right thing... That he was getting old, that their way was no longer his... He would get up and tell them that and then go home to Mother... But that strange mist over his eyes... Almost as if they were covered with angel wings... That roaring in his ears... New sounds, not of earth...

He slumped forward in his chair... They caught him before he fell... There was a big smile on his lips... Mother would have the insurance now, and perhaps God would let him sit near the door and wait for Grandpa Jepson...

(from *The Pilgrim*, CPH 1944, pp. 51-54)

2 comments:

FatherDMJ said...

Would that all pastors could go Home to Heaven during a Voter's Assembly!

May I borrow this book when I see you Tuesday?

Anonymous said...

I'd rather be glorified during the Mass.

But I've experienced in some sense what "compline" describes.

Fr. Wolfe