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A letter to Paul Carroll, who said that I must become a Catholic so that I can pray for him.

It's here, in the silent monastery corridor, I think of you and say a prayer for those lost by the way, for the foolish virgins, not the wise. It's your prayer too, Paul, for the losers of eternal life, the unfaithful departed, those who know they sit alone in the near-dark, writing, "Why do they shut me out of Heaven?"

You and I know that now Miss Dickinson descends a staircase in the Elysian Fields. With her is Miss Therese of Lisieux, who said to Jesus, "I am happy not enjoying the sight of that beautiful heaven here on earth, as long as you open it in eternity for unbelievers."

Here Paul, where they pray and cross themselves and tend bees and run a print shop and farm and come to choir stinking of sweat. They're Catholic enough even for you, and their prayers rise like incense carried by the angels up to God. Of course I believe it. Even the Methodist in me believes in the change, the bread and wine that turns into Benedictines dressed like ravens who reappear each morning to pray and sing.

Of course I don't belong. In habits as black as unbelief, as black as the Black Madonna, who answers all prayers from the heart, they take me in out of charity.

When I'm among them I say all the Glorias and Alleluias and Amens, and often I really mean it. I don't know what I'm saying, Paul, and that's the point.
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Author:Norris, Kathleen
Publication:Chicago Review
Date:Jun 22, 1988
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