I have been on a Pilgrimage.
It began on that superhighway known as Google. Then, it was on to numerous rummage sales and thrift stores in regions far and wide. Antique stores seemed logical since what I was searching for was something very old. I left each one disappointed. Often, there were situations fraught with danger and loathsome creatures….like bats, and in one place on the prairie, a very tall and rickety ladder that ended in a barn loft full of pigeon poop.
Who knew that I would find exactly what I was looking for in the most unlikely of places?
Actually, it really isn’t so much a church as it is a building that used to be a church. The church has, er….left the building. It is set to be torn down along with the tiny parochial school and church rectory owned by the diocese. An entire city block of old, brick structures will be gone soon according to the nice Church Lady who helped me the other day at this formerly sacred, now dank and moldy, place where hundreds of families once went each Sunday to worship and practice their faith.
I am not a member of this parish or any other, for that matter. This would, no doubt, disappoint my Irish Catholic grandfather, who attended Mass every week of his life, sitting in the same pew in a tiny mission church on the Leech Lake Indian reservation which, ironically, was named after St. Catherine, a virgin princess and scholar who was martyred during the 4th century by the pagan emperor Maxentius.
But, as I’ve already explained…I was on a pilgrimage, on a search….which is how I ended up at a rummage sale in a church.
Hallelujah and BINGO. There they were! Rows of old, oak pews! I did a little liturgical happy dance in the aisle. The benches are heavy and solid, and worn smooth by the bottoms of the Faithful (or Fidgety) who, for over a hundred years celebrated Mass in that sacred place. My treasures will be cut down to size and delivered to me soon.
When our house was built several years ago, one of the things that I absolutely, positively, wanted in my kitchen was a breakfast nook. When I was young, the family of a good friend of mine lived in a beautiful, older home that, in addition to a sun room, had a fine old kitchen with a breakfast nook. I remember summer days of good sandwiches made from thick slices of her mother’s homemade bread and glasses full of her dad’s homemade root beer and toe-numbing January “snow days” of hot cocoa with marshmallows slurped up while sitting in that nook. Those memories of those times, that kitchen, that childhood still make me smile and feel warm inside.
My own nook, with the old church pews, will look nothing at all like the place I remember. And yet, to me, this space in this house built in the woods will be a sacred one to me. It will be small enough for a dinner for two and a spot where friends will visit, face to face, over cups of coffee. It will be large enough for the frosting of Christmas cookies and cousins and Thanksgiving pie. It will be a comfortable spot to linger, to laugh, to visit. A place of peace and communion. Every family needs a nook. A place in a kitchen built solely for the purpose of holding in the love.
The great cathedrals of the world were built by men.
Women build different kinds of churches.
This will be mine.