St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology
11:15 AM - Natural Terror and Supernatural Love

John Pfister

It’s past eleven now.  I feel sick to my stomach and hope I don’t upchuck.  The fried chicken was lip smacking good, almost as good as what mamma used to make on Sunday morning when she got home from work.  The potatoes and homemade milk gravy were definitely real.  The corn was canned, but the biscuits were fluffy and fresh-baked, and the cook made sure I had as much honey as I wanted and little pats of butter on wax paper squares with a thinner wax paper on top for protection.  The pecan pie came with a big dollop of whipped cream.  I could barely finish it all, and now wished I hadn’t politely tried.

I remember the first time I heard Sister speak of Christ.  Her eyes had a faraway look that reminded me of this girl I knew in High School who was in love with the captain of the baseball team.  She would stare off into space talking about him with a little smile on her face as she stood on one leg and twirled a pencil in her curly blond locks.  I never saw her after that freshman year since I dropped out.  Dropping out was really a relief to my teachers who always had to take extra time to explain stuff to me.  My mom was also relieved because she worked long hours and getting me to school was hard after the bus driver refused to let me ride, seeing as I was a bully of sorts.  Looking back now it seems I was reacting to everyone laughing at how dumb I was, but I just couldn’t see it at the time.

Sister said, “Christ loves each and everyone, Joe, saints and sinners alike.”  I said, “Even someone like me, sister?”  “Of course, Joe”, she softly spoke.  “I don’t know anything about Jesus, Sister”.  “How about if I meet you every Wednesday Joe and teach you about God?”  “Will you teach me to pray?”  She took both my hands in hers, “I will teach you to love Christ as Christ loves you, Joe”.  After about a year sister brought Father to baptize me.  Soon thereafter, I made my first confession and received my first communion.  And true to her word, I learned to love Christ as Christ loves me.

It’s eleven fifteen and my hands start to shake.  Father shows up to calm me.  He asks if I want confession, shrugging I tell him, “Sorry Padre, nothing new to report.”  He says, “God loves you Joe, and so do I.”  “I love you too Father”.  I remember my first confession; I stumbled on the words, blurting out my sins through racking sobs of remorse and regret.  “And then…and then...after I beat her…and took my pleasure in her…I cut her throat.” Father was weeping softly, he knew I was speaking of a little girl.  Sister says God forgives us for our sins through the priest acting for Christ.

It’s eleven thirty now and the guard shows up to take me to “the” room, “I’m gonna miss you, Joe”.  “It’ll all be OK, sir…be sure to tell the other guys I went without fighting.”  “Sure thing, Joe”.  They had asked me to put on a diaper so I would not be hard to clean up.  We get to “the” room and everything is happening just like the warden told me earlier.  When I saw where I was to lie, my heart began to race, like I was on the ledge of a very tall building with nothing to hold onto. “Lie down here”, the guard asked patting the gurney.  As I lay down, he buckled my hands and feet in bindings so I couldn’t squirm.  Although it was warm and stuffy, my blood runs cold.  Someone in rubber gloves masked like a doctor hooks two electrodes to my chest, and thumped my arm to find a vein.  He said, “just a little pinch”, as he stuck the two needles in.  That was kinda funny but I couldn’t laugh because I could barely breath.  Tubes went from the needles through the wall to the “hot shot” waiting there.  The executioner turns on his heel and the door quietly clicks shut behind him.

It is twelve o’clock.  The guard leaves the room and, as if by magic, the curtain slides open to reveal my audience.  My lawyer is here clutching a Kleenex, next to the warden who sits by a silent phone; in the back I see Sister and Father tightly holding both hands.  My brother is here, at first reacting as if to wave, and then instead wrings his hands with the look of terror on his face.  The little girl’s parents, much older now, glare at me with hate, disgust, and a fleeting pity.  The speaker above the window speaks, “Do you have any last words?”  A single tear falls from my eye, “I’m very sorry for what I did to your daughter, and, and…I love Christ…as Christ loves me”.  I am very scared and I remember the last thing Sister told me, “Our hope is in the risen Lord”.  I see the warden nod, I hear a click and think of Christ, with that far away look in my eyes…sleep takes me home.


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