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Portrait of Angela as St. Agnes

by Susan L. Miller

On Sunday, Angela slides into the pew beside me
saying, “Yesterday was my anniversary: eleven years

consecrated,” and I puzzle. I know she isn’t married,
have watched her bring her elderly mother to church,

serve communion barefoot, read from the pulpit
when our lector Eric’s not present. She’s always laughing,

a strong Italian scrape from deep in the chest, and when I came
to receive the sacred rites for the elect, she stood by

as Father crossed my palms with oil, the only person
I knew from church who wasn’t also marked that day.

“I’m a Consecrated Virgin living in the world,” she explains,
and shows me her gold wedding ring, shaped like a chain.

“The day of the ceremony, reporters crammed the cathedral:
no one believed that two virgins existed in Brooklyn.

The other’s from Trinidad, and very serious. Her mother
told me you’ve given my daughter the gift of laughter.”

The day’s reading, I Corinthians, says An unmarried woman
or virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,

so that she may be holy in both body and spirit,
and I squeeze her hand, both of us chuckling.

After Mass, on the sidewalk, she jokes with the priest,
“Eleven years, and we’ve never had a fight.”

“You and Jesus?” he asks. “My mother says He’s the best
son-in-law in the world,” she replies. She pulls on

her green scarf, fishes her keys, remarks that she’s seeking
the Bishop’s blessing for a residence for teenage girls

in our parish. “I visited him, and he said he would pray.
He thinks I’m a nice woman,” she says, and laughs,

shaking her lamb’s-wool curls. Three rosaries tangle
on the rearview mirror as she waves and drives away.

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