“Beware of pickpocketers while praying.” I pass the sign in the entryway to the Church of the Infant of Prague. I keep my hands in my empty pockets. I admire the saints admiring the sky and watch my own breath rising. The pine scent is fantastic and competes with the chill of the building and the breeze of the street–the doors constantly propped open by slow-moving tourist troupes.
As I stand near a statue of St. Therese, a monk approaches. His brown robe rustles and I move out of his way, my typical posture of trying to be polite and unobtrusive. He’s looking at me, so I turn and smile. His eyes are deep-set and blue, his eyebrows a salt-and-pepper hedge.
“Where are you from?” He asks, but it’s not really a question, I suspect, because as I say the United States and he’s ready with a follow up: “Can you name all Fifty?”
For half a guilty second I wonder if I’m being called upon for fifty saints or fifty prayers, “Oh. The States? Hmmm. Maybe forty?”
“Not bad.” He gestures at me, so I nod and genuflect as a reaction. I promise myself to brush up on all of it next year, those small East Coast states and the major statue-able saints.
–Prague, Czech Republic.