Ora Est Labora

Ora Est Labora

You had watched every furrow
of that pastor’s brow
keep an acute eye towards his fold.

You’d watched the serious-as-stone
expressionless nod of his
as he acknowledged a passing joke.

“This is no mere game”
was the bellow implied beneath his preaching
this is battle for the salvation of your soul–

of each and every one of your souls.
There was not a moment, you thought,
that he took the charge of his office lightly.

It was clear he had mired in the spiritual muck
Wrestled with his darkness and fought with others through theirs,
And learned the weapons to break chains.

There was no levity about him,
though joy was always the fruit of his work.
It was at a funeral, the fourth member

of the same family in four weeks.
You handed him the thurible.
As he raised it to the image of our Lord

three times, the incense rose, three times
you saw his face grimace in the silence of the funeral rite,
three times, you watched the pastor cry out from his heart

with all that spiritual fortitude with which he’d been graced
for the sake of another, one of his sheep:
“Open the gate! Have mercy, Lord! Judge him with mercy!”