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Our Lady of Hope



Thank God it didn't look like that any more! Father Anselmo stood across the street from Our Lady of Hope and looked up at the stars. A few short months ago his church was bathed in an eerie inner light, white doves flew from the belfry and lightning flickered above the roof of the nave. The stars could not be seen.

It rained almost every day that spring. The old iron gutters gave way on the east side of the church and dripped rusty water constantly, soaking and staining the wall of the nave. The rusty water leached its way through the wall between the first and second stained glass windows and deposited what some people thought was an image of the face of Jesus. By word of mouth it drew people from other churches, other towns -- some people fell down before it to pray. "The eyes," they said, "look at the eyes. They follow you wherever you stand." Auto-suggestion perhaps? Who can tell?

From then on other things began to happen. The lightning arrestors on the roof of the nave gave off flickering fingers of light at night and the church itself began to glow with an inner incandescence that lasted from sundown 'til the first light of morning. Some people thought the wet weather had soaked the foundation and that somehow the church had electrified and grounded itself. You could feel the tingling at times at the tips of your fingers.

Father Troxell the organist burst into Father Anselmo's office one morning and said, "The organ! It's a miracle, father. It plays as though it's been reconditioned. The 60 cycle "C" pipe is playing again." He fanned himself rapidly with his sheet music. "... and Mrs. Whittington has found her voice -- she can sing the doxology in the original key. Just think F instead of D."

Father Anselmo shook his head. "Astonishing."

" ... and ... and," Father Troxell went on, "the organ plays the progressive chords during Communion! I can't believe it."

The eleven o'clock masses were full to overflowing -- so was the collection basket. Standing room only. Everyone received Communion! The church ran out of wafers and wine and Father Anselmo's fingers were crushed from shaking hands with his enthusiastic parishioners at the end of the service.

Finally, Bishop McGreedy from the diocese made a personal call. "You're doing a magnificent job," he told Father Anselmo. "You've got the only profitable parish in the diocese!" He nudged Father Anselmo in the ribs conspiratorially. "The Church doesn't forget, Father. There are great opportunities in the hierarchy for go-getters like you." When he had gone, Father Anselmo knelt before the wooden crucifix that stood at the end of the nave. "Father," he said, "if this must be so, then let it be so for everyone."

From that moment, the spell was ended. The gutters were replaced and the stain on the wall of the nave no longer looked like the face of Jesus. The smudge was removed by the sexton with a sponge and a bucket of Mr. Clean. Mrs. Whittington's chronic catarrh returned and the doxology returned to the key of D.

The church itself returned to its normal smudge-gray color and was almost indistinguishable from other buildings on the street. The white doves disappeared and many of the parishioners could be found in the local bar instead of the eleven o'clock mass.

Father Anselmo was content. He knelt again at the wooden crucifix. "Thank you, Father," he prayed. "It is better this way, I think. We must have our sins and our tragedies, we need our poverty, our weaknesses and our imperfections. Without them there is no hope. Without the night we would never see the stars.

The End

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