Spiritual Ends – by Scott Caputo
Down the dim halls of the seminary, I followed my friend.
Jeremiah, in beige robes, beckoned me
into the backyard grotto, a patch of woods
whittled away by freeway easements,
a remnant of wilderness within Berkeley’s bounds.
Light criss-crossed through oak crowns,
but every path I chose led to a giant web
strung from unseen branch tips,
a sly mass waiting for me.
The Novice Master eyed me closely that day:
a new recruit?
So many times I had contemplated the cloth.
A life behind confessional screens.
A heart held inside a tabernacle.
The eye of the monstrance peering into every soul.
So much light, but I feared the empty room at night
alone with only a crucifix.
My friend embraced the order:
philosophy papers on Kant and Hume,
a mission trip to Chiapas, Mexico,
summers at the McKenzie River House.
Along the way, his fellow novices
dropped out or were asked to leave;
one left to fight terrorists in Afghanistan.
Near the end, he would have to pass a final vote.
Would the order take him? How could they not?
My friend’s spiritual charge had only grown.
No longer just my old college dorm mate
who liked to debate metaphysics,
but a man destined to be a father.
The seminary elders, those who sat by themselves,
saw Jeremiah differently:
not eager enough to wear his habit,
not obedient enough to his superiors,
not correct enough in his moral thinking.
Their vote surprised everyone and no one:
Within a year, Jeremiah had shed his robes
to teach high school English.
Within another year, he was married to a woman
who had consoled him through his grief,
a fellow traveler on an intersecting road.
Then came children and fatherhood of another kind;
no priories or prayer five times a day,
but a different devotion,
waking in the middle of the night at regular intervals,
feeding a little soul,
lulling, lulling the self asleep.