Conversation in Vienna

I was sitting in St Stephan’s here in Vienna, in front of an altar looking at an ornate portrait of Jesus, with crucifixion wounds in his hands and flames coming out of his heart. I was thinking that looked very rock and roll, that flaming heart on his chest, like a Thin Lizzy album cover. Then I noticed an elderly woman standing near the altar; she’d placed her purse and shopping bag by her feet. Her hair was badly dyed bright red. And she was speaking. To Jesus. I could see her lips moving. She was speaking in earnest, having a real conversation. Once in a while she would touch her hair or her forehead or wipe an eye or pause and hold a fist to her lips; then she would start speaking again. This went on for the better part of half an hour while I watched; I don’t know how long she’d been there before I noticed her. I don’t know of course because I couldn’t hear her words, and if I had, I probably wouldn’t have understood them. But it seemed clear she was asking for forgiveness, too. I still wish I would have hugged her when she finally left. But of course we don’t do that, do we. We don’t hug strangers no matter how moved we are by their talks with the Lord.

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