The Saints We Know
John A. Ward
Cooder and Chesty are at the Mocha Bean Café. Cooder is having cappucino, creamy cheddar soup and seafood salad on croissant with fruit. The fruit du jour is watermelon and cantaloupe. Chesty is having Columbia Supremo decaf coffee and pastrami and cheese on rye.

“Did you know any saints, Chesty?”

“No, not personally.”

“I don’t mean famous ones, not canonized saints. A saint is a person who goes to heaven. Did you know anyone you are sure went to heaven?”

“My aunt and uncle.”

“Which aunt and uncle?”

“Uncle Felix and Aunt Faith.”

“Why did they go to heaven?”

“They were good people. They did a lot for the retarded children in Seaview County. My Aunt prayed. She did novenas. I’m not sure what a novena is.”

“A novena is nine days of prayer.”

“Oh, OK. She wore out the books.”

“I didn’t know there were books for novenas.”

“There were. She prayed for her children. They were retarded, but praying didn’t change that. Maybe it made her feel better. She went to church every Sunday and on all of the holy days.”

“Did your uncle pray?”

“I never saw him pray.”

“Did he go to church?”

“He never went to church.”

“But he’s a saint, too?”

“Yes. I’m sure he is. He was a kind man.”

“So praying is optional?”

“I think so.”

“And going to church?”

“That, too.”

“What one needs to go to heaven is be a good person and do good works?”

“Yes, and respect people. My aunt and uncle always treated me with respect. They asked my opinion like it was important. They read to me. I was surprised how different my mother was. They were sisters, grew up together in a strict Catholic house, but my mother never treated me like that. She didn’t go to confession. She did take us to mass on Sundays and holydays. Once she embarrassed me in church. She asked if I was going to communion. I said, ‘Yes.’ She asked if I went to confession. I said I didn’t have to. She yelled at me, “You go to confession!” There were only a few people in church before the mass. They all turned and looked at us. I was crying. I told the priest what happened. I never knew what to confess. I was just a child. I never had any sins worth mentioning.”

“What did the priest say?

“I don’t remember. When I went to college the chaplain told me that my mother probably thought she was going to hell because she married a non-Catholic.”

“Was your uncle Catholic?”

“No. He was Moravian.”

“Do you think your mother went to heaven?”

“I don’t know.”

First published: November 2015
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