by  Linda M. Rhinehart Neas


The church was dark,

smelling of incense and beeswax.

Silence spoke from

around the pews and pillars.

This was a blessed place –

Refuge – holy ground.

I sit on the altar steps,

too young to know the




Mary –

mother, maiden, queen, crone –

hovers above me,

blue mantle, outstretched arms.

Such sad eyes,

I think,

sad perhaps because she knows –

knows the pain hidden deep

within my tiny body –

the pain stuffed deep down

within my soul.



I wish I could climb up in her lap –

the need for mother comfort

as palpable as the cold marble

on which I rest.



Outside, rain, children’s voices, seagulls

Create a backdrop for my prayers.

Inside, in the silence,

I hear the softest voice,

You are safe… rest… you are safe…”

“Momma, I need you…”

“I am here…hush…rest…”



I lean against the altar rail,

eyes closing,

heavy with sleep and burdens

too terrible for a seven-year-old.

Silence, warm and protective,

wraps around me

like Mary’s soft blue mantle.

Fear dissipates like

the heavy incense –

gone, but with a lingering scent,

gone, but ever-present.



With a start, I wake.

Alone – still –

but for the silence.



Looking up,

Mary’s eyes,

Soft with mother love –

tell my child’s heart

“You are home.”