Where We Do Not Wish to Go

 On an ordinary Sunday, I sit in the plain narrow pew. It is scarred from decades of use. The eighth Station of the Cross is signed Jesus console les filles d’Israel. The brick church itself was built in the 1870s by immigrants from Quebec. Our elderly pastor, whose ancestors’ patois colors his English, reads from the Gospel of John. Jesus tells Peter: “When you are old...another will gird you and carry you to where you do not wish to go.”

Did those nineteenth-century Quebec farmers wish to come to this new country, to go to where—outside their family—their mother tongue was heard only in church? Most were young. It is easier to go where you do not wish to go when you are young. I chuckle. I am entering my late seventies. I can’t think about emigrating anywhere. I worry: Will I become so “girded” with loss of health and memory that I will be carried off to that far country where I am a stranger to myself and others?

Shortly after the Mass, a call comes that brings my musings home. “Is this the Judith O’Brien who wrote an article in Commonweal on the communion of saints?” He so much liked the article. He introduces himself: Father R, a seventy-five-year-old retired priest who lives in a lake house on the Canadian border. Would my husband and I please come visit him? It sounds pleasant enough; after all, one enjoys visiting those who share interests and who applaud one’s...

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About the Author

Judith Johnson O’Brien is past chair of Catholic Family Center in Rochester, New York. She currently lives in Vermont.