Brown cotton gloves clinging to fragile skin. Blood beneath a buffer of bandages.
The hands of a saint. Regal vestments with gaudy gold trim worn by a priest with thick dark eyebrows, silver beard, and a face made gruff by the air of the Italian mountains. God’s mountains. Or perhaps it was the old Franciscan friar who first brought these mountains to God.
White smoke rising from burnt incense and permeating the few open spaces in the crowded church. Farmers, laborers, housewives. They have come to see him. Their personal miracle. Christ walking a twentieth century earth. From behind a marble altar, the friar trembles. A life’s march to Calvary nearing completion. Suffering and misery, ecstasy and joy. It was all for them; it was all for Him.
The hands of a saint raised high in blessing. The hands that, in their youth, excitedly sifted through stacks of holy cards, each one the portrait of a hero. The hands that, with sadness, had embraced a mother and father before leaving for the monastery, before dying to the world. The hands that, with longing, venerated Christ’s crucifix after being reborn. The hands that healed, that pardoned, that turned bread into flesh and wine into blood. These were the hands of a saint. The hands of a man who bore the wounds of Christ.
At the altar, he collapses. Jesus, too, knew what it meant to fall. It would be the third and final time. The women of Jerusalem weep as they look on. Then he is led by the crowd through the city gates. The tired Franciscan gazes for the last time upon the faces of the ones whom he has loved.
Father, please do not abandon us. How will we go on without you?
I will wait at the gates of heaven until the last of my children have entered.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Br. Zachary Burns, T.O.R., is a Franciscan friar of the Third Order Regular from the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For more of his writings, fiction & non-fiction, visit his blog This Too Shall Pass.