Remember not, O Lord, our offenses, nor those of our fathers; neither take Thou vengeance on our sins.
Dusk fell later than the Monday before. Piles of snow still lined the roads, and the fields were more white than brown. Still, a hint of spring blew through the air and brought a smile to the young man's face as he opened the doors of St. Patrick's Church.
The lights were low. In the loft the choir prepared for Mass, while up by the altar the servers were rehearsing their parts. He found a spot near the front and knelt down to pray silently. Gradually people filtered into the church. Two of these were a woman about his age, and a young girl of six or seven. The woman he knew; she was a friend. They entered the pew beside him, the woman introducing him to the girl.
A bell rang and they stood as Mass began. The pipe organ's majestic strains filled the old church, and the smell of incense wafted out of the swinging thurible, lifting their prayers to heaven.
To any outsiders they could have been a family, and when he realized this, the man laughed a little inside. He offered his Mass for them, for his friends. Man, woman, and child they prayed the Mass together, bringing themselves to the altar. When the last bell had sounded, and the choir had ceased singing, they returned to the church doors, where the little girl asked questions of the young priest, and the woman told excitedly of her retreats in preparation for entering the religious life. Above them the organist continued to play until the roar of the pipes filled the church and moved their souls.
At last the time to go home had come. As the church doors swung closed behind him he offered a prayer of thanks to St. Valentine for such a beautiful evening, and smiled.