Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fear of the Godly

I went to catechism class that next year and the Curate, Fr. Ketchum, brought me into his office to go over my final exam, a written test. The last question was open ended, something about Satan in the Garden of Eden, and why I thought God had allowed evil to interfere with our relation with God.

I don’t recall the detail now, but he had asked me where I gotten the ideas for what I wrote. I told him I had liked the question because I had not thought of it before, but it seemed very important to answer. I told him I had no idea if I was even close to being right. He smiled, laughed, leaned back and said something about it being amazing because he had never had an adult be able to answer as well.

I thought being called to the office meant I was in trouble (it always had in school, and had lots of experience with that) but that seemed to be all he had wanted to talk about. He smiled as he stood, and asked me if it was alright he talked to my parents about it. “Sure, I don’t know why not.”

I was very afraid of Fr. Ketchum and his (and my) Rector, Fr. JJ Niles. There was something about them that made me want to be around them all the time, but there was also something so different and so powerful which I did not understand and which made me afraid to approach them. I served at the Altar with them both and watched and listened in awe. In those days, if you were not confirmed, you did not attend the Holy Mysteries of the Mass. So it was in acolyte training that I first began to comprehend part of that power and difference that was a part of these two men.

It was a big Church, but my Priests loved me as if I was their own child— I somehow read this into the way they talked to me— something rather amazing in that I had one on one contact with them so rarely. With parents, you know their love by years of experience. But with these men, that same knowledge was overwhelming— at least to me.

How could they love me so much, how could they have such power and use it so gently, humbly and gracefully— and I am not speaking only of the work at the Altar, but even the gentle pat on my shoulder when passing me in the hall. Ah, but perhaps it was not that these men emitted some mysterious assurance of love, perhaps it was in a mystical something in the recipient— perhaps I just recognize holiness when I am in the presence of holiness. I did not then, nor do I now, presume to know.

I know Fr. Ketchum spoke with my parents as he had asked to do. He called them that night. My parents never said a word about it to me. Twenty years later, my Mom gave me that catechism test-- she had saved it in a box under her bed.

Copyright © 2008 W. Crews Giles

No comments: