My prompt required me to write about a Catholic priest whose flaws of jealousy and pride were eating his life away. Twenty minutes later, and I had written this short story. Enjoy the fruits of my burst of creativity!
"O gracious Lord, grant rest to this good man's soul," the elderly priest intoned as he stood over the bed of his dying parishioner. Father James stood quietly in a corner of the room as he watched his superior go through the last rites with the wizened old man, and he couldn't help noticing how the sorrowful family at the bedside looked on Father James's mentor with the kind of reverence one might reserve for a god.
It had always been like that, Father James reflected. Old Father Thomas had been the priest in this close-knit community for the last forty years, although his true home was in Ireland, and he had always inspired a loyal and loving following. The tiny stone church was always packed with villagers eager to hear his Sunday sermons. Village drunkards trembled in tearful repentance at his reproofs. Trusting young women and jaded old men alike turned to Father Thomas for counsel and a kindly word.
"Nobody comes to me," Father James thought with a touch of bitterness. "Nobody sends for me to perform their last rites. Nobody tells me that my sermons inspire them as much as Father Thomas's sermons, and the drunks just roll over and go back to sleep when I walk by! Why?" His dark eyes swept the room, peering into the faces of the dying man's family as if he could read the answers within their souls. "I am just as holy as Father Thomas, I am just as educated --if not more so-- and I am younger and more vital. I could do so much more for this community than he, if people would just give me a chance." He felt wronged, smothered, unappreciated by Father Thomas and the village. Voicelessly, he mouthed the words: "Wronged, smothered, unappreciated." They tasted sour on his tongue and stung his soul. He would never get anywhere in this parish if he didn't do something.
As he and Father Thomas walked the narrow lanes from the dead parishioner's house back to the church, Father Thomas turned to the younger priest. "My brother, you seem troubled," he said gently.
Father James said nothing, pondering. Should he tell Father Thomas his real feelings? No. He would not be another person who crawled to the old priest for advice. He would not treat the old priest as if he were his god. He, Father James, educated, wise, and holy, was sufficient enough to solve all his own problems. And solve them he would.
It was Father James who performed the next mass, who preached the next Sunday sermon, and who visited the next dying parishioner. The village never knew what had happened to old Father Thomas. When they asked Father James, the young priest merely smiled solemnly and told them that Father Thomas had been unexpectedly called home.