” Each day, at round about the same time, the old man would shuffle quietly into the church, bless himself, nod towards the altar and sit into the same place in the same pew right at the back of the church. Never kneeling he would sit there silently looking ahead towards the altar, or perhaps up at the stained glass windows, other times at the floor or maybe at his hands, which generally lay resting on his lap or holding his flat cap between his knees. Mostly though he seemed to stare straight ahead. Occasionally his lips would move, but for the most part he would sit unmoving. Eventually he would stretch his back, stand and leave just as quietly as when he came in. Fixing his cap and buttoning his coat, he would step out and merge with the crowds on the footpath outside.
Though he was not there every day, a priest noticed the old man and his regular visits. Saying nothing, he observed him on and off over a number of weeks and became more and more intrigued by him . Other than sitting at the back of the church on his daily visits, the old man never seemed to set foot inside the church.
One day as one was leaving and the other was entering, the priest took the opportunity to speak to him. He explained that he had noticed him there regularly but not as an ordinary parishioner, most of whom would be known to him due to regular attendance at services, funerals, weddings, baptisms and so on. He wondered what it was that drew the old man to the church and what it was, if anything, he prayed for.
The old man answering gently and quietly, said that, though he was not religious, he liked to go into the church for the peace and quiet it afforded him. And as for prayer ?
“Sometimes I sits and prays. Most times I just sits.”
Fixing his cap and buttoning his coat, he merged with the crowds on the footpath again.”
I heard that story years ago, possibly in primary school, ( which could have been 45 to 50 years ago. Jesus wept !! ). On the other hand I could have heard it some where else and more recently ( though not that recently ). Whether or which it has stuck with me through thick and thin, ups and downs, ins and outs. Through everything I’ve been through since I first heard the story it’s always been nestled in the recesses of my consciousness. Not all day everyday you understand. Life is too busy, fluid and interesting for that. Just occasionally, but when it comes to “praying”, that is the way I do it.
I just sits.
It could be anywhere. Pretty much always in the peace and quiet of somewhere conducive to it. I don’t know who or what to pray to. Don’t know what to be saying. Not even sure if there is a “who” or a “what”. Don’t know where the big “where” is.
All I know is “religion” has no answers.