a writing by Adeosun Olamide Ayo

There is a mild mind from which your priest forth his sermons, a holy mind, a repentant heart. But this past days I haven’t had such, perhaps for the errors I have done_ my soul hasn’t craved guilt and there remains hanging that aura of pride. I searched, trying to conjure your meal today, the sermon with which to feed you, a sermon that would sustain you through the times, your trials out here but I found none and so it would seem either God desire you hungry, unfed his teachings. This, it, none of_ is strange, it happened some time ago to Father Owen, Father Owen the one who you know, the one you’ve heard and spoke strange and untrue things about, yeah Father Owen, the one who chose, who went up to be with God. Then before his suicide, sacrifice, he led a flock like ours in that small town out here, like us, he spoke to farmers, schoolboys, widows, nuns, travellers, those about to rob or murder, folks like you and other lonely people, strangely happy people, his was usually filled, filled with hungry, wanting people, his parish… Father Owen would say ‘God loves you but who needs love? God does!’

He knew of the weather and kept himself up with such issues, issues that bothers us, he could see it on your face, you contemplating suicide, you facing a divorce, you battling a disease eating your babies’ heart, you who just lost a job as a wife, you with an appearance you would trade for a mask, those who can’t forget a word or two, imprisoned by it, Father Owen could see, too the parents who haven’t heard from their children in years… Father Owen would say ‘God feels that way too’ and it was for them he conjured his sermons and his sermons, Father Owens sermons were pills, they calmed a mania, could mend broken spirits, like sermons should, healed, pulled out from the storm that drowned some of his congregant. He ensured the chapel had a certain silence, a certain rhythm, a certain scent, a certain light, a certain color, and a certain breeze, a certain touch…

Along remembering Father Owen, I do remember a certain young man too; probably Harry Inoxide he was called, a funny name_ so was his. He’d come in to the church quietly, stay quietly and leave quietly; there were_ then, those like some here_ who looked though, protecting their bodies, eyes, voice, and ears from others. And even a priest wandering into their space must be cautious, for when they see you approach; they flee- thinking perhaps you chase them. Father Owen knew this from the fog he saw, consuming him and knew too the need, he needed a gesture, not some mere stretch of hands to his veiled or absent hands but a hug, so he could know if he was hot or cold needing warmth, or if he was warm, such warmness we see in the most unexcited, indifferent of us, in need fuel.

So he reached out_ to him, at the entrance there where he usually hurried through and when his eyes came to meet Father Owen’s, the snows there melted, grew out and burnt his face! For a moment there he felt Father Owen could see into his soul, he felt a light, a presence that held him back, it held him there while Father Owen said goodbye to others. That day, Father Owen walked him home, and in the days that followed, what he did and how he lived Father Owen bothered and soon they became friends, Father Owen befriended him, he became that which he needed_ and when Father Owen listened to him, he felt better- and though what he often said were contrary to the ideals he has always upheld, he listened, not judging him, not derisive of what would be disgust to most virtuous people, he listened not derisive of what would be empty talks to most here and listened too, to his ramblings about his paintings for this was what he did and though his paintings were middling, he loved it when Father Owen held it close and called it phenomenal, abstract, and when he told Father Owen, he was making a portrait of Christ for the church, Father Owen smiled and told him how happy God will be to have his son painted. And though it displeased him and almost broke him that his painting of Christ wasn’t hung in the church, it calmed him when Father Owen mentioned him in one of his sermons as an example of the artistic nature of God and yet he needed more, and his need caused Father Owen to identify a distraction, a lie in the circumstances that triggers his feeling and so by some means, he caused him drunk, up so drunk, to lose his sorrow, and he courted the sisters silently, those from the brothels_ to admire him, smile at him and demand they want a portrait of themselves. But he would come back to Father Owen and he would say, “Father, Father, Lust finds me, it follows me!” and Father Owen would say “You must find out if it is lust, unveil yourself, all true love is covetousness, all true love is jealousy, love so is made of such beautiful vices, but go, obeying your feelings, taking the veils of shyness your body is imprisoned, go out beloved to be loved’’. And so he painted the sisters, the skies and his life improved, and the sisters too. For through the joy he emitted and the strength he released, they repented and some chose ever his company, that by that action, responses_ God saved them and me for I was him.

Now think upon _this, Father Owen demonstrating such love as God himself has often done- substituting kindness with candor and yet there too- with an unknown weight down upon him, pressing_ so ask what could cause a man like Father Owen, what burden could he have carried, what could cause him to drink so much that he crash his car into the rock? Was his like brother Paul who one time never smoked, drank or ate whatever he read -was poison, but soon dwelled and lodged upon such decays, abiding within himself along his damaged heart, smoke, excessive amount of alcohol, fatty foods? Or was father Owen perhaps expressing anger at him-self instead of at the things that have betrayed him, his strength, -knowledge? Or was he about his service to God for so long, confused about his role, his worth and had done this to punish God? Whatever it was, are we humble enough to accept it could swallow us too?

‘’I have needed a companion all through my days as a priest, a voice to dwell with me, a hand to hold- and Gods hand and voice has been there, in different forms, one time to rebuke, one time to hug, they were the things I needed to live, now the voice has left me, leaving not silence but an emptiness, an harsh emptiness made by an invisible claws that scrapes the surface of my soul. I need it, I must find it, the voice, his hands- remember me please in your prayers’ Father Owen said in his last sermon.

I thought about this strongly and now could see. There he was reaching out to us, to his congregation- to save him from whatever tide he was in, the tide all of us have and will sometime be. You say you are not but there are some here who are, some not loved by everyone, thinking they are obnoxious, a failure and some too who because they are not an utter success at many-things, thinking their life is worthless, and you_ when others looking sickly, have felt they were irked with you for not helping enough. Or the wife who reached out to her husband to make love and he refused, saying to herself how fat and ugly she is, such sweeping tides, you feel it dragging your feet, felt it pulling you when he gave to the neighbor the smile he hasn’t bequeathed you or when he is taking a long business trip and you think upon how he balks at your presence, as your marriage falls apart, that tide pulling when the neighbor brought over some fruit, and you couldn’t have them but thought about a mess you looked at the time, about your home being a disaster when she came in or how time betrays you and the things you loved you no longer love, it is the tide, pulling when we cannot tolerate the loss of a loved one, the tide pulling those wishing to escape the pain and suffering of debilitating and humiliating illnesses, your bolder father, husband, nursing an inner wound, who can’t become a burden to others.

It is for tides like this, we must remember to always -hold each other’s hand, creating and sustaining ties, opening our doors, our arms, it would help us, not just others, those held but us as well. Let us always be willing to strip ourselves of pride, be courteous in our apparel and be ever conscious of robing others with dignity, we must act in such way that whatever may occur tomorrow, others can know they can fall on us, lean on us, rise on us, let us remind ourselves especially when it doesn’t seem so and all seems to go contrary- that the future is not bleak! We all must be, seeking to understand how others feel, seeking to know the solutions to their problems and there is no denial, everyone deserves this treatment! -Everyone, especially those that seem the strongest amidst us, perhaps you do, the mild mind should come.

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