Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The offering of a key

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published February 19, 2016

There was a town with a small church. I had heard that the church was beautiful inside and so I went to see it and brought my camera. When I arrived at the church and tried to open the door, it was locked. I walked around the block and tried a side door, but that was also locked. I spotted a small gathering of people across the street. They were sitting in a row on a low wall and chatting. I knew that there was an evening Mass that was to take place in an hour or so, and my hunch was that they gathered at that spot every Saturday evening to catch up on the local news.

I walked over, found an empty space on the wall, and sat down. The local language was French, and even though I did quite well with that language in high school, I did not have the confidence (and probably even the skill) to attempt any kind of a conversation. So I just sat there, looking at the church and admiring its beauty.2016 02 18 GB Father James Behrens, OCSO The offering of a key

There was a woman next to me and I could not help but notice that she kept trying to catch my eye. After a few awkward moments of turning my head in another direction, she leaned toward me and nudged my camera. I then looked at her and she smiled, pointed to my camera and then the church. And she then said, “I can open door. You come with me.” So I got off the wall and followed her across the street. She went behind the church, where there was another door, knocked on that door, said a few words I did not understand to the person who opened it, and then turned around and with a beaming smile showed me the key. Off we went to the side door, which she opened and then led me inside.

The inside of the church was just as beautiful as the outside. I took my time, walking around taking pictures of the stained glass windows, the sanctuary, the Christmas crib, baptismal font and whatever else that struck me as being fashioned with beauty—which turned out to be nearly everything.

I finished and attended the evening Mass and felt so at home with the singing and the language, even though it was all in French.

After Mass, I went looking for the woman and found her and asked if I could take her photograph. She smiled very demurely, fixed her hair, adjusted her hat and stood against the door. The picture came out very well and when I showed it to her she seemed quite pleased with it. I thanked her as best I could, and we parted ways.

Later I thought about how many of us look ahead in our lives in the hope that the right and most beautiful church will someday come into view. And when it does, when we find it, we will want to know how to enter it so as to absorb the wondrous mysteries of the Divine.

The kindness of that woman brought me down to earth and taught me that what we need and want most in life in terms of salvation and finding what it is that will save us and open the door to life is always right in our midst. We all possess keys to the kingdom. We are the doors to the beauty that is God and we are also the way that might lead others to enter the places of holiness that exist in the human heart.

God is known through the love of the human. We live in God, and God lives in us. And so I thank a woman I may never see again for offering me a key and an opening to the ways God is with us: a turn of the head, a smile, a willingness to follow, and an awareness that the real door to what lay within that church was sitting next to me on a little wall, waiting for me to take notice, and follow.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at