I did my best learning in the confessional booth. It was there I learned of living and loving and failing and dying. It was there I found out life wasn't always fair and because of that I became more human.

I struggled with sleep and found myself more often than not awake and sitting in the pews of the church in the late night hours. There I felt the peace of my God and it was there where I felt most free to think of a better world. That quiet spirit seemed to comfort my reflections and as I aged that time alone with my quiet thoughts nearly turned me towards a life of constant silence.

All of those wondrous meanings to the mystery of the trinity became more meaningful as I grew old and I was blessed the good Lord granted me the wisdom of the ages. I didn't always need mass and that little bit of relaxation from a wine allowed me to reflect on those early priests and saints and their words of wisdom. And to that I raise my glass.

I thought of the sins like pride and anger and greed that the old priests used to talk of. All that preaching about evil ways and yet it seemed as if those sins were more common than ever. I shook my head at those that believed they just needed to yell the message a bit louder and I prayed they would begin to understand. Some folks would do well to listen to themselves, I thought.

Those preachers who believed God would be angry at the ways of man must have known a different God than me. Those who believed in there being only one way to worship a God had me praying for them and hoping they realized the spirit is inside all of us. The quietness of the church in those early hours brought that out in me.

I struggled believing my God would ever get angry. Whether myth or not I always felt the good Lord would provide a nice soft landing at the end of this journey for sinner and common man alike. He shook his head at the Bible thumpers who pointed at a verse and raised their voices as if to make it true. As if written words could ever capture that spirit of being that I called my God.

There were a lot of things that made little sense to the doubting priest. Some nights I thought that the unborn must be exalted when that child reached heavens door. I even sometimes thought that the mother, in giving her child away, may have committed a selfless act that gave that child a better life. Of course, those were private thoughts and I wasn't certain what the bishop would say if he knew what I was really thinking.

I shook my head as I thought of heaven and hell and wondered about those men who wrote the old black book. A book which uses fear and the consequences of failure and disobedience as a motivator was not like my God and I wondered if like us today they had been bought. My God seemed to understand that life was a journey filled with ups and downs and fortune was sometimes sheer luck.

I worried about my church. It seemed to drift throughout history from its spiritual base and as I saw the common goodness sitting in the pews I prayed the white haired old men would see their church for what it is. In a world of good people we had forgotten we are not all alike and the church had always found a place for those who thought a bit different.

The sun would begin to come up and I would still be in that church pew. My eyes so liked to see that peaceful light filter through that stained glass. The church people would soon fill the pews and my quiet would end soon. But at least for a brief moment I was alone with my thoughts and I thanked the good Lord for the memory.

Merle Hanson,

Winona