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     “Let us pray. May the Lord light the way home for our beloved and keep them safe from harm. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. The mass is ended, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

     To Maria, those words were a two-edged sword that pierced her heart. Since her boys left, Padre’s sermons and final blessings had taken on a different meaning for her. As the choir led the congregation outside with their closing hymn, Maria lit a candle and knelt at the altar.

     She spoke in a quiet voice, beseeching her unseen God: “Go in peace? My sons were pushed out of our home to serve, but serve whom? Is this love—giving life to my sons so evil hands can use my flesh and blood to fight their battles? Where is there peace in a savage war?”

     Maria no longer drew the same nourishment from the white walls of her church. In her mind, they ran red.

     “This war will devour us all,” she whimpered to herself.

     Patterns of light filtered through the stain-glass windows casting beams of colors across Maria’s praying hands. Holding her rosary, she bowed and poured her heart into her Hail Marys, her soft cadence floating through the church. A warm glow bathed across the stations of the cross hanging on the walls and the fragrant smell of incense filled the air—a sign of reverence. Maria lifted her eyes to the statue of Mary cradling baby Jesus—A golden aura surrounded His body, emanating beams of divine light. Enraptured by His radiance, Maria raised her hands, imploring the Mother of God. “Would you not have given up your life for your child—the only cause worth dying for? Saint Mary, Mother of God, take me and bring my sons home!”

     Making the sign of the cross, Maria kissed her rosary, wiped away a sorrowful tear and pulled herself up from the wooden planks that ran the whole of the church. She shuffled to the open door and squinted against the morning light—the weight of the world on her shoulders. Throughout her life, she had an intense desire to be understood, but this day, all Maria wanted was to be heard.

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