Final part of a series of 5
Zephaniah paused on the doorstep before entering. It wasn’t often doors swung open soundlessly at his approach, he thought to himself. No word, no knock, no touch even. Well, Mom had said it was alive. He stepped across the threshold.
Sconces on the wall flared one by one, lighting a path for him. The hall was long, with doors closed on either side, and no hint as to what lay beyond. He walked maybe 100 yards and then stopped. There was no sound of human activity of any kind. Is the place empty? He wondered, Or is everyone asleep? “Hello?” he called.
“Hello.” Mrs. Stone emerged from an alcove that must have been ahead. “Welcome back. Are you ready to begin?” She was dressed in a red velvet robe trimmed with sable, quite regal compared to the last time he saw her. Her hair was swept up and pinned with a diamond clasp.
Zephaniah blinked. “Where is everyone?” he asked.
“This is a private moment,” she responded, “one of great gravity. We honor it by giving you room and time for introspection. Your room is available to you as long as you need it. Everything that you need for your journey is also available to you there. If you need anything, simply ask out loud and you will be heard.” She bowed solemnly, then said, “Know this. You are not alone,” and turned and left him, disappearing into the same hidden alcove from which she had come.
Zephaniah blinked again. That was strange! He thought to himself, but maybe it will be clearer after I find my room. Looking around, he saw the lights now extended in a new direction; where the corridor met in a T intersection, then turned left, then off to the right into a small, somewhat shadowed alcove. He approached the door soberly, until the placard on its front could be read.
Shock, then awe, then confusion registered on his face. Was this his mission?
The sign on the door held two words. Welcome, priest.
Almighty Father, grant this servant of yours the dignity of the priesthood. Renew within him the Spirit of holiness. As a co-worker with the order of bishops may he be faithful to the ministry that he receives from you, Lord God, and be to others a model of right conduct.
Zephaniah approached the house on foot, with a pack slung over one shoulder, and a staff in hand. His dust-stained brown robe was worn and patched, with a hood that hid his graying hair. His beard, neatly trimmed was gray also.
A hundred yards away, he stopped to take a out a flask and drink, and wipe his forehead with an old handkerchief.
The house looks the same. Has it really been forty years? he thought to himself. Well, time to see what has changed.
As he came to the door it swung wide. Well, that hasn’t changed, he thought. Then he spied Mrs. Stone hurrying toward him, a most atypical grin on her face. “Welcome, dear Father,” she said. “Your room is ready, of course. The house knew you were coming.”
“Of course,” he said solemnly, and smiled in return.
“Are you coming to stay, Father? ” Mrs. Stone quietly enquired as they walked down the corridor.
” I believe I am, Mrs. Stone,” he said. “I think I am to spend time in prayer. My heart is restless now and finds no peace in anything else. Nothing else will do. I am full to overflowing with the richness of lives I have shared, the births, deaths, marriages, baptisms, the community celebrations. I need to let all that richness take root and bear fruit in me, and for that I need solitude and peace .I have seen both the grace and goodness and wickedness that people are capable of. The human soul is a great mystery.
“Just imagine, Mrs. Stone, if I had walked away from the invitation 40 years ago. Obviously I would be different, but different how? “
“It is my observation, Fr. Zephaniah, that second guessing life choices goes nowhere good. I think it safe to say that the choice you made has made you a wise, gentle, and generous man, one who seeks after holiness. You can’t do better than that. But you have an obsession about doors, I’ve noticed…” she waited, eyebrow cocked, for him to react. He laughed.
Then suddenly she drew herself up regally, looking not unlike she had forty years ago, but without the red sable-trimmed robe. She placed her hand on his head and he felt compelled to kneel. She spoke. “So then, Hidden of God, do you bring to fulfillment the prophecy your mother received long ago. She would be very proud. Truly you are Zephaniah, Treasured by God, for your faithfulness. Be at peace.” So spoke the living Stone of the House with many rooms, on Hearthstone Hill. And so it was.
For otherposts in the series, see below for links, or under category short story,
#4 Room in “Short Stories”
#3 The MissionIn “Short Stories”
#2 The Beginning part 2In “Short Stories”
#1 The Beginning In “Short Stories”