Sporting green cords and a black tshirt, wvrapped in a green shawl, the girl wandered around St. Peter’s Basilica, interested but not entirely engaged by the significance of the historical site.
He watched her as she made various faces: of wonder, of curiosity, of confusion. He watched her as she quickly read the sign posted outside of the prayer room: “For prayer only.” She walked on by.
She went on, read another plaque, and then she turned around. She paused, as if gathering strength or courage. Then, she slowly ambled up to the prayer room, and after watching several people go in, she too went in.
The prayer room looked like every church, with an altar, pews, and everything else religiously significant to Catholics. People knelt on the kneeling pads behind the pews and prayed, and then crossed themselves and rose to go.
She watched. She leaned against the wall observing, and that was all he could see.
Outwardly, she looked peacefully observant, but inside her intelligent mind a war was waged: I don’t know how to pray like this! I’ve never knelt down and prayed before! So? Everyone can pray, there’s no set way you have to do it. Well if there’s no set way, why would I bother praying here and not anywhere else? You don’t have to, it’s just a sacred place where you can join with others in prayer. Oh.
Like that, the girl strode to the closest pew and knelt down on the pad. She was surprised by how comfortable it was, and how easily her elbows slid onto the back of the pew, and how her hands drew together in the symbol of prayer. She took a deep breath and bowed her head. He saw her and thought she looked like a pro, like anyone else in the room. Of course, she was like no one else in the room.
She began by thanking. She was hesitant to name this entity she thanked God because of the connotations this suggested to her, but she thanked and thanked and thanked for all the blessings in her life. Thoughts popped into her head and she prayed for a lost love who hurt her, and then her own healing from that love. She was swept away by prayer, but not in a rapid frenzy—rather, in a bubbling brook of gratitude that cascaded gently from her heart.
She rose to go, the muscles in her jaw tingling from clenching her teeth to prevent the tears welling up in her eyes from springing forth. She tried to look composed as she faced the others in the prayer room, but he knew.
He had seen this happen to many, and he knew the light feeling she felt, her heart beating fast with the glory of gratitude. He watched and knew. She quickly left St. Peter’s. There was nothing to see that could compare to her prayer.
By Lyssa Myska Allen, 2006