Father Patrick Michael O'Hanrahan was a living stereotype. A Roman Catholic priest of Irish descent. Of course he worked at it. His Irish accent, for example, was a wee bit affectatious. Father O'Hanrahan was born in Brooklyn, attended the seminary in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and had only seen the old country during a brief visit a handful of years ago. Whenever the good father found himself deeply involved in a conversation that took great thought, his accent would vanish entirely. Yet, Father O'Hanrahan was a good man at heart. A solid man. A respectable man of the cloth who, although at times the devil knows it was difficult, faithfully kept his vows. And if he sometimes drank a wee bit too much, "Well," he would say, "'tis my only vice, you know. Sure an' it proves that I am a man, for every man that lives and breathes and has his being in Christ is imperfect." Father O'Hanrahan was also an honest man and not one to give the old excuse for his vice: medicinal purposes only.
The good father had entered seminary school directly after graduating from the eighth grade at St. Mary's. He had always wanted to be a priest and while still in grade school served as an altar boy, not only learning the then required Latin phrases, but at that early age becoming proficient in the "dead language". It was a sad day for Father O'Hanrahan when English replaced Latin in the mass and he felt as though it might be the beginning of the end for Roman Catholicism, signalling the complete divorce of mystery and religion. A religion without mystery, he believed, is nothing but a meaningless jumble of rituals and ceremony - a dead and sterile thing. While O'Hanrahan was in favour of demythologizing and exercising reason and logic, he felt certain that the deepest mysteries of the Church should not be tampered with and that the ritualistic garb that they were dressed in, such as the Latin mass, should not be stripped away from them. And, truth be known, he was a man fascinated in youth by tales of leprechauns and monsters like Jenny Greenteeth, magic and the spirit world. The ancient Celtic hero Cu Chulainn was his favourite as a boy while the other boys revelled in the Hollywood exploits of Steve Reeves.
Of course, as a young boy, initially a bit fickle, O'Hanrahan did have another desire. If he could not be a priest, he often thought, he would become a newspaper reporter. There might appear, at first, to be a vast chasm between his desire to be a priest and that of a reporter, yet both seek the truth - or at least are supposed to - and, he would say with a laugh, "I do indeed have the newsman's taste for strong drink!"
When it was suggested by the Bishop that he edit a local Catholic newspaper, Father Patrick Michael O'Hanrahan was in heaven.
And so there he was, editor of the Tri-state Catholic Forum, merrily driving down I79 to interview a young woodworker that he had chanced to meet one weekend while fishing. O'Hanrahan was, of course, an avid fisherman - both on and off duty.
Exactly why he was driving so far to interview the man Father O'Hanrahan could not say. It was, perhaps, something about the way the sunlight had played about the man's gentle face and around his dark hair. Or maybe it was something in the man's large sorrowful brown eyes. Actually, he thought, if anything it had been all of these factors and more, yet he could not pin down the precise reason that the interview seemed so important to him.
O'Hanrahan had an excellent day and he would be eating trout for all of the following week. He had just reeled in the last of the limit when he found himself overcome with compassion for one of God's creatures. As he looked upon the fish weakly flopping about on the bank, its gills opening wide as it suffocated, he looked into its cold, impersonal eye and saw therein vital life and a kind of sorrow that was not self-pity. It was at that point that a man's gentle voice startled him. O'Hanrahan looked up and there stood on the bank a simple looking fellow.
"Beggin' your pardon, but what was it that you said, my son?"
"I only said that if you were going to throw the fish back you had better do it quickly."
O'Hanrahan looked down at the fish, gazed into that glassy eye that seemed to reflect so much humanity despite itself, and then gently he took the struggling creature in his hand and returned it to the lake. The fish, revived by the water, darted off into its depths and disappeared like a schoolboy sent home for the day.
Before looking back up into the young man's face, Father O'Hanrahan glanced at his naked feet. It was odd, he thought at the time, that the man's feet were wet while his trouser cuffs, which had not been rolled up, were perfectly unwrinkled and dry. Obviously he had not been walking along the dusty path, but it was equally obvious that he had not been dangling his feet in the water.
A shiver ran up the priest's spine as he thought about the man he would soon be interviewing and to try and frighten off the heebee jeebees he switched on the car radio.
"You are tuned to WYRD 93.1 FM in Pittsburgh and I'm your host, Jeri Brown." O'Hanrahan smiled at the sound of the mellifluous voice. Sure an' the lady disc jockey was a bit of a heathen, but he found himself often fascinated by her eclectic choices in music. "Let's go back a few years when flower power was popular and yuppies had never been heard of. This is from the hit Broadway musical ... Superstar." There had been interference with the radio reception and the priest had not heard the entire title, but when the song began dramatically he instantly recognized it and smiled widely.
"Superstar! Sure an' that be an understatement!"
As Father O'Hanrahan drove up the dusty back road in his late model Ford, his sharp blue eyes focussed upon the tiny house at the road's end and most especially upon the figure calmly sitting on the front porch steps.
Joshua Christopher Logon stood up as O'Hanrahan brought the old Ford to a full stop and engaged the emergency brake out of habit. The dust still swirling in the warm air, the man walked around the front of the car and with a great smile on his face, took the priest's hand in a warm greeting.
"It's good to see you again, Pat. I have been waiting for you."
O'Hanrahan glanced at his moderately expensive wrist watch, a gift from Bishop Wright himself.
"I'm not late, am I?"
"No, no," Logon laughed. "You are, of course, precisely on time. No doubt you started early to avoid being late. You are a careful and a considerate man, Pat."
"I try to be, Josh. I try to be."
"But all this dust ... and the heat. You must be thirsty after your long drive."
"That I am, my son. That I am."
"Please," Logon ushered the priest over to a comfortable chair on the porch, "relax. Make yourself comfortable. I'll get you something cold to drink." Logon turned in the doorway of his modest little house and smiled back at the priest. "Would a little wine be all right with you, Pat?"
The priest's eyes twinkled.
"Sometimes, my son, I'm thinkin' that you can see into a man's heart."
Josh Logon's smile broadened, then he turned and went into the house.
O'Hanrahan studied the chair upon which he sat and the one next to it. They were handmade, and exquisitely so. In fact, it appeared to be that everything including the charming little cottage itself had been lovingly handcrafted from the finest woods.
As the priest admired the house and the surrounding countryside, he heard Logon turning on the kitchen sink faucet. There was then a moment of silence, and when Logon reemerged from the house he carried in his gentle hands two glasses of chilled red wine.
"I hope you like it," Logon said. "I made it myself."
The priest took the proffered glass, inhaled its rich bouquet, and then sipped the ruby red liquid letting it flow over his tongue, delighting his taste buds.
"Exquisite, my son! Positively wonderful! And you made this yourself?" Logon nodded. "Remarkable. I have never tasted such a heavenly fine wine as this before ... and I suppose it would be no surprise to you if I said that I have tasted many fine wines in my time!"
Logon laughed as the cleric took yet another sip.
"Miraculous!" The priest held the half full glass up to allow the sunlight to shimmer through, highlighting its rich ruby red body. "Why, the wine served at the wedding feast in Cana could have been no finer!" he exclaimed.
Logon smiled with pleasure, but enigmatically.
"So tell me," the young man said after allowing the priest a little more time to enjoy his wine, "why do you want to interview me for your paper? I'm just a simple man, as you can see, and for these past few years I have had little direct contact with the outside world. What I have seen of your society in my eighteen years of wandering before this...," he began, allowing his sentence to go unfinished but for the disappointment that was evident in his voice.
O'Hanrahan pondered the question he had been asking himself. Finally he replied, "My son, I am not sure. From the moment we met and briefly talked by the side of the lake I have felt compelled to speak further with you."
"But to wish an interview for your newspaper?"
The clergyman leaned back in his solidly built chair and studied Logon's calm, aesthetic face.
"I suppose that part of the reason I am here is because I wanted to listen to you, talk certain matters over with you, clarify my own thoughts and perhaps find answers to questions that have been perplexing me for a long time." O'Hanrahan then leaned forward, holding the glass of heavenly wine in both hands. "I also feel, Josh, that you have something important to say and I want to help you say it to as many people as possible."
Logon sat still, looked deeply into the other man's eyes, a faint knowing smile touching his lips. After a moment he sipped his wine then set the glass down on the handcrafted table to his right, between the two chairs. He leaned back and made a temple of his fingers.
"I once felt as if had a great deal to say, but now..." Once again he let his sentence go unfinished, but for a slight shrug of his shoulders, seemingly wide enough to uphold the entire world. "I lead a very simple life here, Pat, but I am not ignorant of all that is going on in the world around me. As I have already mentioned, I travelled extensively for a time, always eager to learn, always interested in meeting new people, listening to them, talking with them. I have, of course, met some very good people, Pat. That I cannot deny. However, the ... greed, the avarice, the hypocrisy that I have found, the sheer evil that exists in your society astounds me. Saddens me.
"Greedy, insincere politicians taking advantage of the gullibility of the people who have voted them into office with the greatest of hopes and the minimum of reason and logic. Businessmen and women carelessly walking all over anyone who gets between them and their ambition, using people as stepping stones to positions of high status and even higher pay, heedless of the harm they do to others in their mad rush to acquire the wealth of the world while they lose their own souls. Children not even in high school who are already crack addicts, heroin junkies, prostitutes ... and worse. Parents who are not in the least concerned with the well-being of their children, themselves addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or any one or more of a thousand gifts from the Creator turned to vice and evil in the hands of humankind. There is no end to the ways of sin in this world, Pat, and frankly I am convinced that it far outweighs the good."
Joshua seemed to slump in his chair.
"A man is nearly beaten to death by rioters, and cries out 'Can't we all just learn to get along with one another?' and it becomes one of the most used jokes in history."
"That's one of the reasons we have the priesthood, my son - to counsel and guide the people when they go astray."
Logan's eyes grew unusually hard and cold for a moment, his voice so icy it burned.
"Priests like Father Porter?"
Father O'Hanrahan was taken aback. His heart actually skipped a beat when Joshua mentioned the other cleric's name.
"How could you know...?"
"Of a priest who has sexually molested children and still does to this day in a Mexican city? Of fellow priests and at least two bishops who have conspired to keep Porter's activities a secret, paying off the parents of wronged children, sending him off to a parish in another country? How could I know of Father Porter and the hundreds of those like him? Of the secretly married priests, some living in sin with nuns who have also chosen to take certain vows which they then break at the first opportunity? Not that I agree with the Church's policy in regards to the regulation of a priest's or nun's private lives. A lifetime of celibacy is unhealthy and it was never intended to be a hard and fast rule in the church as it can only, as it has led to deception and dishonesty, a horrible distortion of natural God given desires, the complete destruction of honour, utterly destroying the people's faith in the sanctity of the Church. I...," Logon faltered for a moment, choosing his words carefully. "Despite the many attempts to rewrite the books of the Bible, it should be obvious to everyone that ... Our Lord ... was a married man with children..."
"Mary of Bethany. Lazarus was his bother-in-law. He was a rabbi, his own apostles even call him that throughout the four gospels, and by the rules of his religion at the time, marriage was encouraged. And while the priests and monks over the centuries have tried to cover up the fact, two of his sons are still named in the Bible. Barabbas, a Jewish freedom fighter, who was also called Jesus Barabbas ...or Bar-rabbi ... and the so-called "false prophet" that Saint Paul encountered," Joshua almost rolled his eyes when he emphasized the word, "Elymas, who's Hebrew name was Bar-Jesus. Some monk kept missing one there, or perhaps he was one of the true lambs in a flock full of wolves in sheep's clothing. Every word of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek translated into English ... but that one word. 'Bar'. Elymas Bar-Jesus. Elymas son of Jesus. And yet the priesthood fosters the myth that ... the Nazarene never 'knew' a woman, forcing men and women who wish to serve God to live a life that the Creator had never intended people to live, surrendering, sacrificing one of the greatest sacraments in creation that two people can share, warping forever an entire society's veiw of something that is so simple, so sublime ... so natural ... that the most holy sacrament of sexual union is perverted and debased in a thousand different ways. And what is it all about? Control. Petty control, greed, avarice ... and using others to obtain the things of this world at the expense of sublime ideals."
Joshua leaned forward in his chair, his dark eyes consuming the priest with their ardour.
"Yes, Pat, at one time I thought I had a great deal to say, but now I know better. Words are useless when no one really listens. A man can die on a cross, and yet the sacrifice of his life, in the end, becomes nothing more than a clever gimmick for a corrupt priesthood and countless lay ministers to manipulate the people to get what they want. Snakes!"
Logon fell back into his chair, dejected, his eyes turning outward to look upon a nearby hill, a tear that refused to be born into the world shimmering around his eye.
"My father was a good deal older than my mother, and after he died, mother and I came to this place. I never had the chance to really know my father. That was my fault. I wanted to be out in the world among the people. I wanted to know them, all of them, and while my father grew old and died, I got what I desired."
"Your mother?" the priest asked, still shaken by the passion unexpected in this otherwise blessedly peaceful man of compassion.
"She too died, not long ago really, and her body has been laid to rest atop that hill." Logon, with a nod of the head, indicated a grassy knoll atop which a beautiful dogwood tree grew, still in bloom when it shouldn't have been, a simple but beautifully carved wooden marker to indicate the place of burial.
"Perhaps ... perhaps you have tried too hard to find the good in people," the priest suggested. "Maybe your expectations were too high."
"Too high? All I have ever expected of the people around me was a modicum of reason and common sense. Just a little sincere compassion, not some hypocritical caricature of it, which is worse than no compassion at all. A cold heart is far better than the heart of a hypocrite! And people have become so dishonest that they cannot even be honest with themselves, in their own minds, always lying to themselves and others about their feelings, their motives, their desires; saying not what they truly think, but what they believe others want them to say, and all for the sake of manipulating the people around them, the people that they claim to love." Joshua turned his eyes upon the priest's face once again. "I know what you are thinking, but my feelings are not born of personal sadness and disappointment, subjective to the point of perverting my perception of the world around me. I have been uncommonly lucky in my life, Pat, and I could be a happy man today if I didn't feel so deeply the sorrow and sin in the world, the utter hopelessness of it all.
"Perhaps, in a way, it's my fault, after all."
"How so?" the clergyman asked. "You don't presume to take the weight of the world's sins on your shoulders, do you?"
Logon almost smiled.
"No. Not this time. A man tried that almost two thousand years ago and all that it accomplished was to instill forever in society the scapegoat mentality. 'We are God's chosen people! The ills of society aren't our fault! It's all their fault! Those others!' And in the name of God and Christ tens of thousands of people were tortured, burned at the stake and hung. For the love of God entire races of people have been condemned and warred upon, nearly exterminated because all of the ills of the world were their fault for believing differently." The young man's deep, dark eyes filled the older priest's world. He could see nothing else at the moment. "Pat, God doesn't care if you believe that 'he' is male or female or some mathematical abstraction. God doesn't care if you believe 'him' to be white or black, red, yellow or brown. It doesn't matter if you worship God in a church or a temple, or for that matter, dancing nude in a forest grove ... so long as you worship him in your heart, in the seat of his Kingdom."
"It's not a new idea," Father O'Hanrahan remarked.
"And that is the problem exactly," Joshua rejoined. "It's all been said again and again by many a wise man and woman, in every culture on the face of the planet, but as I have said before ... words do not matter if people do not sincerely listen and try to understand. Most people would rather, instead, be given a set of rules to follow, rules that they will inevitably break despite their need and desire for them."
The two men were silent for a moment, then when Joshua Christopher Logon again spoke his voice was quiet and resigned.
"Perhaps the worst thing I have done, and this is what I wanted to say earlier, is to have too often quietly observed. If you are quiet enough, unobtrusive, people around you will speak and act more honestly. They will be more open. The white Anglo Saxon politician will preach the wonders of Replublican values, kiss the babies, shakes every man's hand no matter what his religion or ethnic background may be, but if you are there with him in that quiet moment, seemingly nothing more than part of the background, his true feelings will emerge as he talks about 'those lazy shiftless niggers' on Welfare, the 'damned wap bastards' who must certainly have Mafia connections, and 'those greedy kike sons of bitches' controlling the world's economy." Logon heaved a mighty sigh of heartwrenching pain. "And they are by far not the worst.
"And therein lies the crux of the matter, I think. People all over the world have come to believe that when God speaks it is through thunder and lightning, miracles and wonders. Miracles are easy! Talk is cheap. God's voice cannot be heard in the thunder, nor by way of the words of man. God's voice can only be heard in the silence between the noises, the quiet seconds between the words of man. But ... people have forgotten how to listen and hear the voice of God."
Logon turned again to gaze upon the hill atop which his mother had been buried.
"'God is dead' used to be a favourite phrase for graffiti 'artists' to spray paint on walls. I don't think most people believe that, but I do think that they believe that God has stopped listening to them. In a way they are right, for they have stopped listening. They have stopped listening to others, really listening, and in the few precious silent moments of their busy lives they have forgotten to listen to themselves, to their own thoughts and feelings, to their conscience. And ... when people do not believe that they are being watched, when they feel that they are not being listened to, they often behave most abominably. They become, quite simply, evil."
"What is evil?" the cleric asked.
"It's certainly not some prideful, fallen angel prancing around with horns and tail, doing evil in the world. 'The Devil made me do it!' The poor fellow became yet another, perhaps the primary scapegoat of an irresponsible culture looking for reasons to hate those who do not believe exactly as they believe. And The Devil, he is merely that scapegoat fashioned out of various ancient myths, twisted into its present shape by extreme moralists who themselves cannot practice the unrealistic and unnatural ways that they preach.
"I think, in essence, the only real evil in society is ignorance. At the root of every individual evil that exists there you will find it."
"How so?" O'Hanrahan asked.
"A man, for example, steals from another man, or worse, robs him of his life, and this is done in ignorance of the nature of life, believing in the illusion of separateness. The man whom he robs may need that very thing that had been stolen to discover and accomplish his purpose for being, a purpose that could enrich the life of the thief far more than the property stolen ever could. The murderer may very well take the life of someone who, directly or indirectly, would be responsible for finding the cure for the disease that he later discovers he or someone he loves is dying from. People simply love to rock the boat, but what they don't realize is that we're all in the same boat. Those whom one goes out of one's way to harm are not harmed nearly as much as one harms oneself. The threat of hell and the rewards of heaven, the karma of the Eastern mystics, these are all fancifully childish attempts to control human behaviour, but they have all proven to have little worthwhile effect in the world. The truth is simple, and the truth is, if we harm another we harm ourselves. Ignorant of this essential fact of life, one man harms another without concern, thinking only of some material profit to be gained from his actions, unaware of the fact that between himself and all others there is really no difference. We are all merely individual expressions of One Existence.
"God does not listen because humankind does not listen. And without listening there is no learning. And without learning there is and can only be ignorance. And ignorance, not money, is the real root of all evil."
"The church, for the most part, does its best to educate people."
"Pat," Logon said, smiling sorrowfully, "I know that you and people like you sincerely believe that; that you are kind and really try to be ... to be Christlike ... but the Church, all the churches, the temples, the religions and cults, at best only speak half the truth, and in speaking only half the truth they are also guilty of spreading lies, misleading people as much as if not more so than guiding them."
Logon noticed a red flush of anger in the priest's face.
"Remember that the Nazarene was called the Logos, a Greek term that not only means the 'word', but also 'reason'. The Nazarene also, reportedly, once said that he came not to bring peace into the world, but that he came bearing a sword. The sword has long been the mystical symbol of reason, the ability to take something apart and analyze its components. It has a tradition of being the magical weapon that banishes demons ... demons that a modern man might equate with psychological complexes. However, no matter how accurately the reported words of the Nazarene may be interpreted into one's native language, no one, most especially the ministers of organized religion, seems to be capable of understanding the simple truths therein.
"The Nazarene, according to the gospels, often said that man has the right to forgive sin. A simple enough statement. Yet out of this and other statements a priestcraft developed and the early church fathers, if you will forgive my bluntness, father, interpreted this to mean that the power to forgive sin was a special power bestowed only upon ordained priests and so priests were needed to hear confessions and forgive sins. This and more has served to keep organized religion in business for an awfully long time. Obviously, the Nazarene was telling us that we all have the power to forgive sins - sins against ourselves, sins against society, sins that we ourselves have commited we have the power to forgive, to get over it and not wallow in guilt and shame, learn from our mistakes and move on to be better people."
"Perhaps you are right, Josh, but it is difficult for us to sometimes understand the words of the Son of God."
"And that is yet another mistake made out of ignorance, Pat. Although reason tells us that we cannot rely completely upon the accuracy of the words the Nazarene was reported to have said long after his passing, still, nowhere in the four gospels is it reported that he claimed to be the one and only Son of God."
"But," O'Hanrahan protested, eagerly leaning forward, "he told Simon-Peter..."
"He told Peter nothing. He asked Peter who he thought he was and after his disciple proclaimed his belief that his rabbi was the son of God, the Christ, the Messiah, the Nazarene neither confirmed nor denied it, but instead told Peter not to tell anyone of his belief. To Peter's way of thinking, because he wanted to believe, it confirmed his belief and proved to be an excellent bit of reverse psychology for he naturally, in confidence of course, told everyone what he believed and it caused people to be interested in the holy man, the madman, the blasphemer, so that they came in droves to listen to what he had to say, if only to be amused. Looking back upon that, I cannot say it was as good an idea as it seemed at the time."
"But Our Lord did perform miracles."
"Miracles!" Joshua exclaimed. "Superstitious nonsense. A God who makes a universe function by certain laws, who brings order to chaos, is not going to give to the world a son who breaks those laws, giving to humanity an example of lawlessness to follow. Those so-called miracles that the Nazarene is said to have performed were exercises in applied reason and logic that anyone can perform, that many before and after the rabbi's lifetime have performed. When he healed the sick he explained that it was not him, but the people's belief in him that effected the cure. Almost certainly the illnesses were psychosomatic in nature."
"But Jairus' daughter! He brought her back to life!"
"The Nazarene even said at the time that the girl had only been 'sleeping'. He tried to explain to the people then that she was not actually dead, but that she was only comatose. He simply understood the nature of her state of being and how to bring her out of it."
"But you take so much away from Our Lord by thinking of Him in this way," the priest protested.
"No, my friend, it is your church that has robbed the man of his strength to effect a change for the better in the world. I do not mean to offend you, but please look at this logically. As a man like any other man, he shows us that we can develop our compassion for others to effect great change for the better around us. We too can learn to heal the sick, raise to life the heart of another which has died in his bosom; we too are sons and daughters of God and in being so we are then one with God, of the essence of God, each man and woman a divinity in his and her own right. One of the biggest mistakes of Christianity was to deify the man and by so doing remove him from the realm of humanity, create in him an example that is impossible to follow, for if there can be only one Son of God, why should we even bother to try and be like what it is hopeless to become?"
Joshua leaned back in his chair, seeing anger, frustration and confusion in the clear blue eyes of the priest. He took a sip of his wine, and it seemed to him to have gone sour.
"My friend, your religion, like all religions, has built into it several faults that grow with passing time and this is because religions are man-made, temporary things, and they cannot last forever. Like these chairs which I have made with my own two hands, time will dry them out, make them brittle. They will grow increasingly inflexible and one day they will not hold the weight of man and they will snap in half, breaking under the weight of reality. If I employ them too long they may crumble beneath me, sending me crashing to the earth, surrounded by the splintered remains and dust of that which was once a beautiful thing, a serviceable thing. Time corrupts everything ... every thing ... and when a thing is worn out it must be replaced by another thing, a better thing, hopefully something more serviceable and enduring than that which it is replacing. However, even then, eventually that too must be replaced."
Joshua's eyes were moist with tears unshed. They implored the priest to be reasonable and objective, and to listen to what he was saying.
"The time has come, Pat. The world religions are old, worn out, more of a hinderance to modern man than anything else. The belief systems that once helped humankind soar heavenward now hold us down and prevent society from rising above the superstitious barbarianism of our ancestors. With age these systems have become inflexible and brittle, heavy with corruption, the simple truths obscured by layer upon layer of conflicting dogma and doctrines, myths mistaken for history, as well as unhealthy and unrealistic rules of conduct that actually encourage rebellion.
"This is not merely millennium madness, Pat. We have entered into a new era and if the world religions fail to see this, accept this fact, and deal with this growing awareness, the people and themselves realistically, rationally, intelligently, then the world religions will soon be nothing more than subjects in dusty history books.
"The evils of society cannot be blamed upon some misunderstood beast. We can no longer use the Devil as a scapegoat for our faults. We must all take responsibility for our own actions and when we fail, when we make a mistake, we must not expect a belief in an unrealistic avatar to save us and redeem us from our sin. We must all learn to think for ourselves, to exercise reason and common sense, and not give power over us to some zealous evangelist or organized religion with more interest in business than in truly bringing people to God. We may all have our individual Way in life, but it is a mistake to listen only to one teacher and condemn the rest. Heed not only the words of the Nazarene, but come to an understanding of the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mohammed and the Master Therion. No one man holds the entire truth in his hand. The truth is too vast for but a single man, or even a single religion to express in its fullness."
There was a long moment of silence. Joshua turned his attention to the small wooden marker atop the grassy knoll, while Father Patrick Michael O'Hanrahan gazed at the man with admiration.
"Joshua," the priest finally said, gently breaking the silence, "there are many things I would like to talk over with you and I really do believe you should leave this place, come back with me and speak with as many people as is possible."
Joshua Christopher Logon looked upon the priest with great sadness in his eyes.
"In the end, I would be despised. I cannot confirm the beliefs cherished by this religious sect or the other. I cannot bring peace to others, my friend, for I come bearing the sword of reason and the process of analysis is an unsettling one. The truths revealed difficult to bear.
"I think I shall remain here for the short time I have left," this startled the priest, but he dared not interrupt the younger man, "for my time is over. I see that now."
The young man stood up, the setting sun behind him casting an unusual light around his gentle form.
"I must leave," the priest said, looking up into the face of benevolence, noting the passage of time in the air around him, "but I'll return ... soon ... if I may."
"If one feels that it is necessary, one may always return. However, my friend, I will tell you this: your intentions are good, noble, but after many delays, when you do come back to this place, the passage of time will have taken it's toll."
"What do you mean?" asked the priest.
Joshua, in answer, merely smiled his enigmatic, slightly sad smile.
Father Patrick Michael O'Hanrahan returned home soon after that. His drive down Interstate 79 was a very long and lonely journey, filled with both wonder and sorrow. He did not turn on his car radio. As much as he would have normally enjoyed the selections Jeri Brown would have played on WYRD, he didn't wish to disturb his thoughts, the words of Joshua Logon that replayed again and again in his mind ... or the silences in between.
Father O'Hanrahan wrote his article for the Tri-state Catholic Forum. He did not title it "An Interview with Joshua Christopher Logan" as he had intended. Instead he did not even mention Joshua by name, and he entitled his article quite simply "A Plea for Reason". It was highly acclaimed, reprinted in numerous religious and secular publications, Father O'Hanrahan won awards for it, in some cases because of its controversial nature, in others despite that. However, in time it was forgotten, the attention span of the general populace rather short, their willingness to confront themselves and their beliefs honestly not very great.
For a time O'Hanrahan found himself ducking the media as it was beginning to look like his "Plea" would soon be accepted as a fifth gospel, Father O'Hanrahan's Epistle to the World, but in the end he realized that Joshua was right. He published a very thought provoking piece of literature, but by the way it was quickly forgotten he realized that he had spoken, and yet no one had really listened. In weeks everything was back to "normal", as if nothing had ever happened to disturb the status quo of modern existence.
Time passed. One thing after another caused him to postpone and postpone again his return to the home of Joshua Christopher Logon. However, he eventually found himself again driving down I79, where nothing seemed different. One Interstate pretty much resembles another and the passage of time seldom seems to effect them. The simple dirt road that he followed after leaving the highway looked the way it had always looked. It probably looked pretty much the same when travelled by horse and carriage. The sense of 'difference' didn't hit the priest until he had Joshua's house in site. The young man was not on the porch to greet him, and he saw him nowhere about, while there was something about the quaint little cottage that gave him the sense of emptiness. That feeling was echoed in the very core of his being as his old Ford came to a halt before the cozy little house built by the hands of Joshua Christopher Logon. He knew that everything was different now.
He sat in his car for a moment, in silence, gazing at the building and he knew it was deserted. He could feel the emptiness of a place without Logon.
O'Hanrahan stepped out of his car, stood for a moment gazing at the empty house, then turned his eyes towards the grassy knoll atop which Joshua's mother had been buried by the beautiful dogwood tree. A sob caught in his throat. Now there were two grave markers on the hill, lovingly carved by the same skillful hand.
Father O'Hanrahan quietly climbed the hill and gazed down upon the simple graves of mother and son.
"You were right, Joshua. If you had left this place and come back into the world, if you or I would have revealed to the world who you were ... or who I think you were ... no good would have come of it. There would have been a renewal of faith, but also of all the old wrongs, and the growth of humanity, its evolution, would have been seriously retarded by the revitalization of superstition as religious and political leaders used either your life or your death as a means of gaining and maintaining personal power.
"Besides, we must learn to live life without our crutches, to stand on our own two feet and rather than to follow another, find our own unique course in life and follow our star. You taught me that, my friend, and I can assure you that the Bishop is none to happy about it."
He smiled, but with deep sadness.
"Joshua, I cannot perform miracles, but I have been working very hard with other priests who were touched by your words and we are doing our best to effect beneficial change in the Church. However, I fear that you are right and the time has come for the old to pass away and be replaced by the new. It's the way of life, and we must accept this and move on to greater things, stop holding onto the past and reach out for the future."
O'Hanrahan went down on one knee between the graves and rested his hand on the newer of the two markers.
"Thank you for the interview, my friend. I do not know why you decided to talk to me. But I do thank you, Joshua, and I will always remember you, not for what I wanted you to be, but for the man that you were."