The church on the hill

The Church on the hill


I went up the hill to visit the old man who lives there.
It’s been a long time, he said, Since I’ve seen you.
Yes, I said, I know. But I’d not forgot you.
Then, in welcome, he sang to me.
But what I had remembered as a youthful voice,
full of vigor and fit for forever, had turned into a croak,
a rasp, a sad affair of the heart.

When he dies, I thought, a little of me will die with him.
These bones go deep, he said with an effort,
proud yet, and then, How can you forgive yourself?
I thought about that as I kissed him goodnight
and laid him to rest, up there on that hill.
In nomine Patris, I said gently. In nomine Patris.

In nomine Patris (in NOM-e-nay PAW-tray) is the opening verse of In nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen, the Latin used by Catholics to say the sign of the cross: In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Although raised a Catholic (I was even once head altar boy) I became a Bahá’í at 17. I had few occasions to visit a church after that, but one such occasion was the funeral of a friend’s brother. That church was up on a hill, but the hill of the poem is not a physical one.

My understanding of this poem has changed over time. My father, who is now 80-something-wonderful visited us some time back. I adore my father for the incredible man he is: the finest example of a Christian I know. But he is also very Catholic and while he has never challenged my conversion, I know it hurts him and worries him more. In re-reading this poem I realized that what I had also written about was our relationship: loving, strong, but with some hurt and some regret.

Thank you for reading The church on the hill. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled, appropriately enough, The church on the hill, and was taken from a set of photographs shot in the Poconos. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge,



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6 responses to “The church on the hill

  1. We do worry about those close to us… It can be very complicated but we each live our own life and are responsible only to our Father.

    • Denise, the way I have best heard it put is, “Obedient to your parents in all things but faith.” Certainly, the older I get, the more I believe that to be true. The funny thing is that while my father may worry about me being a Baha’i and not a Catholic, he became very good friends with many Baha’is and they adored him.

  2. Catholic, Baha’i, Hindu… it really does not matter. As long as you love your father and the rest of human kind, that is the best religion. The church on the hill in Israel, I think that’s Bahai. It’s beautiful. I enjoyed reading this post about your relationship with your friend and your brother. Blessings.

    • Seeker, thank you so much for dropping by and I appreciate the kindness of your comment. There is no theme closer to my heart then the truth that all the major world’s religions are from the same God. The divisions between them are man made, not God made.