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Clio's Temple

Fellow travelers

Some of you may have seen the movie Quo Vadis, a 50s-era Biblical epic featuring Peter Ustinov, camping it up as the Emperor Nero. The movie (and the novel on which it was based) derived from a tradition that St. Peter, escaping a death sentence in Rome, met Jesus on the Appian Way. When Peter recognized who his fellow traveler was, he asked, "Quo vadis, Domine?" ("Where are you going, Lord?") Jesus replied, "To Rome, to be crucified again." Peter fell on his face, unable to face the fact that he had denied Jesus yet again. When he arose, Jesus was gone. Peter turned around and returned to Rome to accept martyrdom.

Few of us can expect any encounter so dramatic in our travels down the roads of life. Nonetheless, we may have moments when a meeting forces us to confront something about ourselves. Perhaps it's an occasion when we recognize something unfulfilled in ourselves. Perhaps it's a dream that we never dared admit, for fear of being thought ridiculous. Or maybe it's a moment when we must confront our own helplessness in the face of a wrong we can't correct.

"Quo Vadis?" in Tangled Woods and Dark Waters is a story I originally wrote for an anthology of "road stories" that our local SCWA chapter put together. Of course, like many other literary creations, it requires the willing suspension of disbelief. How many of us would stop to pick up a hitchhiker at nightfall? In the story, Peter Berckmann (a clergyman) answers the demands of Christian charity and finds himself in the presence of something spiritually much heavier than he anticipated.

What roads have you taken that took you somewhere you didn't expect to go?

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