The beautiful church is perched high atop a red rock cliff
gazing across an open valley
so that people in prayer
can gaze upon nature and reflect.
Of course, it was designed long before
subdivisions and miniature Mcmansions
filled the valley floor below.
I kneel in the chapel pews
while the people come and go
some of them speaking of Michealangelo
but most mentioning their favorite television shows.
I find it hard to pray
or deeply contemplate
as another tour bus unloads
and the tiny private chapel
So I rise and go to the gift shop
which is unbelievably crowded
as if this center of commerce
is where the real worship takes place.
On a spinning metal rack
little action figures of the saints
are for sale.
There is St. George battling dragons,
St. Francis speaking to the birds,
and St. Patrick all dressed in green
like a comic book super hero.
There are lots of action figures of all the saints
except for Saint Peregrine,
whom I have never heard of before
but his shelf is all empty
except for one tiny, lonely doll
and as I examine it,
the description says,
“Patron saint of cancer patients.”
I stare at the empty shelf,
go back upstairs to the chapel and pray.