Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Awkward Passions: Confessions of a Black Catholic

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Awkward Passions: Confessions of a Black Catholic

Article excerpt

I. The White Church

We come on Sunday and find it burning, prophecy revoked, tongues of fire going back to their sources. Monsignor Pete crosses himself over and over, mumbles confused benedictions (upon this rock). No prayer for the arsonist now far from the heat his blackened face hidden amid the cool headstones.

The roof caves in sends up a fountain of ash -- fire engines too late this dry September.

Winter in Mexico took me back to Catholicism -- creches were everywhere, wisemen, carpenter, mother, ox and lamb, all turned towards that hallowed center like the towns each turned towards a plaza. Three rowdy boys, our guides, suddenly reverent in the mission church, offered me the baby Jesus to kiss and I did and I remembered

the forehead is for holy water and ashes the palms and soles may at any time bleed the mouth, unbidden, may pour out syllables the meek shall inherit the earth the thought is equal to the deed mea culpa

I stepped off the ascending spiral.

They never caught the incendiary.

At age ten, I saw the church burning -- that dream smoldered in the basement for years before setting the white wood ablaze. I never confessed. They would have believed in the crime but not the miracle.

The nuns were firm in their belief that miracles happened elsewhere. But we knew children attracted them like other kinds of trouble.

II. Pierre Toussaint, Haitian Slave in New York

There was nothing he wouldn't do for her and when she died, leaving him free, he sought out other sacrifices. …

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