Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Narthex, Nave, and Exorcisms


The 26 eclectic-genre short stories for my #AtoZChallenge are excerpts from travelogue notes by novel character Gahlen, who first appeared in SHARDS OF MEMORY – Oral History in a Heartbeat.

Each A-to-Z daily post is a complete, stand-alone tale.

By Francisco Goya - Unknown, Public Domain,

Narthex, Nave, and Exorcisms
Genre: Religion: Mystery of a Red Sash
(391 words)

A nun once explained to me the function of a narthax as an entryway meant to keep heat from escaping the church’s pew section, the nave. A more satisfying purpose would have been to discourage the devil. Or to perform exorcisms.
My sisters were nowhere in sight when a priest in black cassock and white clerical collar greeted me. “I saw you admiring our stained glass windows. I am Father Coppieters. May I tell you a story about one particular window?”
“Of course, Father,” I said, following him to a pew.
“Would it surprise you to hear I perform exorcisms for this church?” he asked.
Had he read my thoughts?
“I have few opportunities to use my training,” he said. “Only people truly possessed by evil require such services. A craftsman once gifted a stained-glass window to the church after I performed a successful exorcism on his son.
The boy lost his ability to speak at a young age after shouting out the name of an honored saint. As a teenager, he demonstrated signs of self-mutilation,  advancing from fingernails to kitchen knives. That is when the craftsman requested my help.”
Unschooled in exorcisms, I wondered what the priest had done for the boy. Again he appeared to read my thoughts.
“More important was the boy’s response. He resumed talking. A year after the window’s installation, he attended mass here with his family. Afterwards, the craftsman entered the sacristy to thank me for curing his son. When I walked him out, the boy was not with his mother.
“We searched the entire grounds. Finally, I returned to the nave. The boy’s body was slumped over a pew, across from his father’s stained-glass window. Tightly drawn around the dead boy’s neck was a red sash.”
The priest fell silent then.
Had the red sash signaled a protest against the church’s practice of exorcisms?
“Will you finish staring at that window soon, Gahlen?”
The priest’s question to me felt misplaced. “The scene is beautiful,” I said. “Yet the circumstances you describe are distressing.”
“Whatever are you talking about?”
A stained-glass window shimmered before me. The priest was gone. Had he ever existed?
Avoiding my sisters’ stares, I glanced around for a black-cassocked form, possibly shuffling into the sacristy. No such vision appeared anywhere, in the nave or in the church narthex.



  1. Wonderful tale! Gripping and exciting to read. Such an excellent way to use your 'N' words!

    1. Thanks, Trisha. I started with only Narthex but it only made sense to use Nave also. All my posts were written in March, most with a light touch. The Notre Dame fire yesterday was beyond tragic.

  2. Hi Gail. This story was gripping. It made me think of the late Father Amorth. I read his biography last year. He was a Vatican approved exorcist. It's quite a fascinating line of work, popular in Pentecostal circles. I found the Catholic tradition of exorcism especially interesting. Saying No to Avoid Burnout

    1. Now I will have to do some research on Father Amorth. Thanks for the information, Heather.

  3. O.M.G. Shivers ran up and down my arm......

    DB McNicol, author
    A to Z Microfiction: Night


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