Imprint of the Print

Victim of the late nineteen sixty and seventy closings that spread nationwide, the parish of St. Joseph sits on three-quarter acres, accommodates a neatly built eight classroom rectangular red brick school, a church that may house little more than one hundred comfortably, a small rectory, convent, and spacious school yard where peals of laughter once echoed throughout the neighborhood when filled with the children of that era just before merging of the schools began. Mass is still held there everyday – though not in the church but in the petite rectory because too often only the priest is present. Sunday is the one day when the church abounds with parishioners and songs from the choir befittingly sing in praise of God.

It is the early weekday Mass that drew Robert, my husband, and I to the tiny parish during Lent. Last year I went to this Mass alone and was surprised when I arrived at the church one morning to find it locked. The rectory sits just behind the side entrance to the church so I went to the door to ask the priest if Mass would be held. He said yes but explained that it would no longer be offered in the church due to poor attendance and invited me into the rectory where he had prepared the dining room for the service.

The rectory’s unadorned dining room is approximately eight by ten feet, has a diminutive table in the center with four narrow wooden chairs that are placed against the wall. On top of the satin tablecloth to the left of the table sits a small wooden bookstand that holds the sacramentary, the corporal on which the chalice with the purificator, ciborium, paten, and the pall are neatly arranged in the center, and to their right the cruets rest atop a five by five inch clear square of glass. The Holy Sacrifice begins as it does around the world, with the sign of the cross, and the service is performed as though millions are present. In many ways they are. The priest symbolizes the worldwide holy ministerial orders of the Roman Catholic priesthood, Robert and I represent the faithful, and within my spirit I feel the ever-present heavenly hosts in this tiny room.

Recently, two visiting nuns have joined us and since their arrival I’ve taken notice to the objects hanging on the wall of the room. On the easterly wall is a clock, on the northerly wall is a calendar and a couple of pictures I’ve not had a clear look at, to the west is a window, but it’s the wall facing the south that has captured my attention and I’m not certain why it didn’t long before now. Perhaps I was too focused on the unique venue of the celebration and the obligatory responses, but on that wall is a haunting print of the flight into Egypt with Blessed Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus on a donkey that is crossing a plain overgrown with tall dried grass and just behind them, barely visible, is St. Joseph.

Not long ago the print drew me into it. The engaging image is not a distinctive one. Its opaque hues of blue nearly camouflage the likeness of a lady wearing a hooded mantle atop the animal that is wading through lanky overgrown tawny grass that is slightly above its gaskin. Maybe the artist was trying to emulate dusk or dawn, it could be either. She is holding the infant with all the tenderness of a devoted loving mother. So riveted to the lady, I nearly missed the slightly discernible following presence of what may well be an exhausted and anxious St. Joseph. And, he had every reason to be both – the journey was spur-of-the-moment, the cause terrifying.

I am especially sensitive to the suffering of this holy family each time that I recite the sorrowful mysteries, or when I see a picture of the Pieta, or when this time of year arrives, Lent, or when it is specifically mentioned in conversation or Mass. In actuality though, I feel it should be remembered every day of my life; it is what I hope to accomplish.

If I can remember what this holy family, each member – Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph – suffered during their stopover dubbed life I would be less inclined to complain, wish life were kinder, fairer, easier, simpler.

If I could just remember how difficult their cross was to bear, mine would seem far lighter and smaller.

If I could remind myself each time I wanted to be exempt from pain or suffering of how painful and sorrowful it was for them in life, surely I would be closer to whom God, the Almighty, created me to be. If only.

So, that is one task before me as I fend off the self-centeredness of my humanity during this Lenten Season…and the days beyond that are given me in this year, in this life.

I thank God for opening my eyes to such beauty, such pain, and such selflessness as portrayed in the tints of blue that hang on the wall of the tiny rectory dining room where the sacrifice of the Mass has energized my spirit far greater than that of St. Peter’s Basilica, or even Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro might.

It isn’t always the place in which we find ourselves that matters; often it’s where our hearts and spirits are that make all the difference in this world.

 

 

 

“When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”             Matthew 2:13-18

 

{Thank you for spending some time with me. May God always Bless you.}