Perhaps a bit long for poetbay. But if you're bored, and can stand all the Catholic "inside baseball," you might enjoy it!


I'd like to dedicate this to fellow poet josephus, if he'll accept the dedication!

A One-Act Play

The Poor Sinner

by Thomas DeFreitas


Dramatis personae:

Fr Ambrose (Brozy) Martin, age 42

Fr Bonaventure (Bonny) O’Herlihy, age 75


Scene: The community room of St Francis Friary.

No one is in the room except for the two friars.




You up for television, Bonny? No game tonight,

But the classic film channel’s got Audrey Hepburn.

Or maybe Downton Abbey's more your speed?



I love that Maggie Smith -- but no, not tonight.



You seem a little pensive. Am I wrong?



Oh, you know us senile contemplatives!

I need to spend more time in Adoration.



You always loved the old devotions, Bonny.

Tell me: have you ever tried Centering Prayer?



Devotion to the Eucharist isn’t old.

It's timeless! Ever ancient, ever new.

Now, what on earth is this thing, Centering Prayer?



O artful codger! Trying to play dumb?

I’ve seen your bookshelves, Father O’Herlihy!

You’ve read Tom Keating and Basil Pennington.

You know damn well what Centering Prayer is.



Language, young man, language! Yes, I know.

I tried it during my semi-Buddhist phase.

It's not for me. I like the Orthodox prayer:

"Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy

On me, a sinner." Simple, short, and sweet.



Sinnering prayer instead of Centering Prayer?



Ha! "Sinnering." I'll have to remember that.

Tell me something, Ambrose. How do you pray?



I'll tell you how, O Grand Inquisitor:

I look at the world, at people all around me,

The baptized, unbaptized, the saint, the sinner,

Rich, poor; white, black; gay, straight; yes, everyone! --

And I see evidence of divinity.

Emmanuel, God with us, God in us:

A ceaselessly fruitful source of meditation.



The mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ!



Yes, Bonny, you could say that. And please do!



The immanence of God. Now, tell me, Ambrose:

Do you ever meditate on God's transcendence?



I should have known you'd bring transcendence up!

Is my way of thinking too adventurous

For a crusty old traditionalist like yourself?



Reactionary rigor, that's my specialty.



Transcendence, Bonny. Enlighten your novice!



Well, you're putting a worn-out friar on the spot.

I’m getting forgetful of my theology.



You raised the topic, Bonny. It's your penance.

Expatiate, Methuselah!



Well, let’s see.

What can I say that you don’t already know?

God is Majesty. God is Mystery. Timeless, limitless.

He is Immortal Love. He is Beauty and Truth.

He broods over the world "with, ah, bright wings!"

With such unutterable purity,

With such unspeakable tenderness! He makes

The moon and the sun. The stars He puts in place.

He is the prime progenitor, the First Cause.

He fills our hearts with charity and hope

And ... and He is patient, very patient ...

He's far too patient with wretched sinners like me.



Are you all right, old buddy?



Oh, it's nothing.



What is it, Bonny? Something is troubling you.



I wish I had your hope, your faith, your love.



Bonny! Good Lord! What are you talking about?

I should be saying the same exact thing to you!



I'm degenerating into bitterness.



Now stop it. No, you're not. Good heavens, Bonny!

You're the heart and soul of St Francis Friary!



God help us all if that's the case. Please, Ambrose,

Do me a favor. Before you hit the hay,

Just say a couple of extra prayers for me.

In fact -- would you mind? -- can we please

Say the Memorare together, now?



Of course!



Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,

that never was it known

that anyone who fled to thy protection,

implored thy help, or sought thy intercession,

was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence,

I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother!

To thee I come, before thee I stand,

sinful and sorrowful.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate,

despise not my petitions,

but in thy mercy, hear and answer me.



Bonny, you're scaring me. Tell me, what's up?



I was culpably stern -- no, not stern. Harsh.

I was very harsh with a penitent yesterday.



Go on.



Well, obviously, I can't tell --



Of course, of course.



I sounded like a monstrous moralist!

Don't smile. It's not a joke.



I'm sorry, Bonny.



I read him the riot act. “Change the error

Of your ways,” all that. But worse than that.

I was impatient. Said the kind of words

That keep people away from the sacrament.



You're human, Bonny. You had an off-day.



Off-day! God help me! My off-day

Might keep a desperate soul away from Christ!

We need to pray for him, poor man, for me,

For all confessors of our holy church,

For all old fools with mean hearts and sharp tongues,

For suffering souls with nowhere else to turn,

For those who look for refuge in the Church

And find a scowl in place of a welcoming heart.

(He probably saw me scowling through the grille!)

In the twilight of our lives we're judged on love.

St John of the Cross said that. Of course, he's right.

And if that’s the case, I’m in a heap of trouble.



What's that you're always telling me, Bonaventure?

"God writes straight on crooked lines." It's true.

You're not the perfect confessor. You're a sinner

As much in need of mercy as your penitents.

We're all poor sinners. That's our glory, Bonny!

We need the love of God so much! We do!

We're utterly dependent on God's grace.

Now, God sees, He must see, your good heart,

Your sincere sorrow, and your true compassion.

You may have made your penitent uncomfortable,

But then again, you might have made him think.

And if his sins appalled you, that should spur you

To pray for this poor fellow all the more,

To join him in his suffering supplications.



Oh, I don't know.



That's right, you don't know.

So please don't go around assuming the worst.



That poor man, he was genuinely sorry.

Christlike! Of course, Our Blessed Lord was sinless,

And my God-thirsting penitent was not,

But there was something beautiful in his sorrow.

“O the beautiful souls of sinners!” Who said that?

No matter. This fellow had a beautiful soul,

And I barked pieties at him. Stupid, stupid!

If I could, I’d kneel to him and beg forgiveness.

Oh, Brozy, I've botched it. How can I say Mass

Or hear confessions when I'm so ...






So loveless!



Come on, Bonny.

It's late. You've got the 7 o'clock tomorrow.



Oh, no! Oh, goodness! Brozy, please, you have to

Hear my confession before I go to bed.



Confession? You’re in luck. That’s what I do.

I can't refuse my old pal Bonaventure.



Your old pal is one cranky son-of-a-gun.



That might be true. God loves you anyway.

The rest of us? We just put up with you.

Kidding, of course. Let’s go into the chapel.


[They rise, Ambrose easily, Bonaventure with effort]



Ambrose, you brazen infidel, you’re all right.


[They walk off.]

Poetry by Uncle Meridian The PoetBay support member heart!
Read 131 times
Written on 2022-08-10 at 10:49

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josephus The PoetBay support member heart!
Iím deeply honoured and would gladly play either part. Exceptionally insightful. Brilliant, Tom. Simply brilliant!

jim The PoetBay support member heart!
Thank you for this.