Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ten Little Church Stories

  1. I shouldn’t have done it obviously, though had I confessed that particular sin I would certainly have been banned, not only from my status as Altar Boy in Chief, but from Catholicism altogether. I was starving; my mother woke up crazy, my father was angry about it and eating breakfast would have been far more painful than it was worth. If Father Duffy hadn’t left the vault door open, had I never seen the huge plastic bag of unconsecrated hosts and the single opened bottle of Leibfraumilch, I’d never have dined on a handful of Jesus’ to be…

  1. To the knights he stood firm, to his post he stood fast
             to his Lord he stood resolute, unto the last
            and as blow after blow laid to waste Becket’s power
            his king Henry stood guilty that murderous hour

  1. Ola pulled Krista into the sleigh as the wedding party streamed from the church and gathered into a line for the parade onto frozen Lake Vanern.

“Make joyous noise!” Pastor Arvedsson shouted, and the fjord ponies leapt ahead, drawing the bride and groom down the sparkling trail of snowflakes and shaved ice. It wasn’t until the first turn that the group noted a thrumming in the air, as if a fiddler were plucking his drone string. And then an unmistakable crack deafened those present; so loud was the call of death that none could remember the screaming that followed.
  1. The wooden plank door was hinged a meter above the ground, its odd height likely a measurement of the average winter snowfall. Lifting my father’s wheelchair over the three foot threshold was a chore to be sure, but I could hardly blame the builders. The 15th century had no rules of access, no handicap parking, no socialized compassion. And if we wanted to see what the 1400’s were like, we’d need to play by their rules. It was well worth the grunts and groans to view centuries old murals drawn in cobalt and ochre, charcoal and boiled beet juice.

  1. It fascinated me, each of my mother’s sisters wedding books nearly identical, all bound in white leatherette, all in black and white and all composed at Holy Name Catholic Church. Of course that was before the ugly stick reconstructions of the sixties and seventies when chapel sanctuaries teeming with alabaster niches sporting saintly statuary were replaced by flavorless God warehouses; huge brick gymnasiums ad nauseum, church designers then touted as efficiency/chic.

In each photo a  sister stood “with groom” before Holy Name’s ivory altar; its magnificence dressed in gold embossed lace and covered in assorted dogmatic trinketry.

  1. It’s not a church so much as a chapel; in fact it’s more a tacky little room where Sons of Norway dinners might have been held. Its pews were scavenged from a nearby parish closure, the podiums were last state of the art in the 1940s and the organ is an early eighties synthesizer. But as I’ve eulogized or carried, sang for or offered prayers in the names of thirteen people in that space, seven of them my own flesh and blood, it’s as much a cathedral to me as would be Notre Dame were I Parisian.

  1. My neighbors would have thought me insane if they’d known; even my wife was suspect, though she allows me a wide berth when I wax metaphorically. We had 500 trees to plant, I thought it only fitting to create a circle of oak; a fifty foot diameter circle to honor the druids and Celts, as well as pay homage to America’s natives by symbolizing the spirit in all living things with a structure of bark and leaves. I will leave little behind save a few personal offerings such as this, the Church of my imaginings, my gift in return.

  1. Some nights as I passed by the church I’d wander inside and sit in the last pew, in silence, to ponder life outside myself. And there I’d take note of the votive candles that adorned an ornate cast iron frame set into the foyer wall, the flickering blue and red and occasional clear glass jars. I thought each candle lit represented a prayer for someone loved; an uncle with cancer perhaps, a child abused, a traffic accident victim…someone whose needs were at least as important as mine, whose tragedies were no less painful. I was not alone in that place.

  1. The entire area’s history is recorded within its graveyard, the generations of Czech and Irish farmers that settled these clay bluffs. The best burgers in the county are cooked across the street from its steeple and black iron gate, the town ball baseball field was built on church grounds, that the community might have something secular to cheer for. The St Patrick School doubles as the town hall at voting time, and it’s good to wait in line amongst third grade crayon drawings of turkeys and men in pilgrim hats, that serve to remind us what our priorities should be.

  1. It was three AM when I answered the phone. She was stutter crying, yet I knew from her pitch who she was. “What’s wrong Candy” I asked. “Can you come get me?” she whimpered so softly I found myself pressing the earpiece into my brain. “Where are you kid? Of course I’ll get you.”

“They raped me Ron” she sighed. “They asked me to a party and then raped me; I’m such an idiot.”

I threw myself out of bed so fast I nearly passed out. Once I knew her location, I had her wait at a nearby church.

1 comment:

  1. I love these, but especially 7 and 10. How good that she had someone to call.