The Devil Waits Outside the Church
She arrived during the homily. Walking right up to the statue of Mary Help of Christians, crowned with May flowers and lovingly arranged her small spray in the Virgin’s arms. She genuflected, then crossed to the altar and prostrated herself, before proceeding to sit on the other side.
I recognized her from 6:30 am daily Mass and from the food pantry. I had suspected for some time that she had some kind of mental illness and was perhaps homeless. Though of late, she had been fixing herself up and dressing with more dignity.
My dad, who suffers from dementia, had had a rough week, which I attributed to the heavy overcast. Therefore, I also attributed her strange behavior to that as well. It was the first time I had seen her exhibit such a level of inappropriateness during Mass.
When she went up to serve as a Eucharistic Minister, there was more bowing and prostrating. She held the chalice on the crown of her head and then kissed it. She did offer the Blood of Christ appropriately to the faithful. But when she returned it to the table at the side of the altar, there was more show, and putting it on her head and such. Finally, Father spoke a few quiet words to her and removed the vessel and cloth from her hands. She submissively returned to her seat, with no further exhibition.
All this was difficult for me to observe. I wanted it to end, to not distract me from the Mass. I was irritated. It was wasting my time and distracting me. I was not feeling loving or kind. I realized this and forced myself to be patient.
It was the comments I heard after Mass that angered me. “Someone needs to get that woman off the altar. It was sacrilegious!” Yes, I believe she does need to be gently corrected, perhaps guided into some other area of ministry. Nevertheless, I must take issue with this.
For years now, I have watched this congregation shunt its elderly, disabled, and mentally ill to the side. Even out the door. Making them feel unwelcome and unwanted. Shame on you.
You boast of a school to form young Catholics but then you disrespect the ones who worked for decades to build this church and that school. Who gave of their time, their talent, and their money. Shame on you.
You too will be there. How will you feel when people push you further and further to the door? Did the patron of your parish love his boys but not his parents? Did he tell his mother that he did not need her anymore because her abilities were lagging? Is it only the children and youth who are welcome in the kingdom of God? People can serve many different ways. It is sad when the community only selects the bright, the beautiful, and the young and then complains that there is not enough help.
I have not seen her since the incident. I hope she has not shaken the dust of this community from her shoes. But I fear she has. May she find the love and acceptance she deserves.
The devil does indeed await us just outside the church. We must strive to continue to be the Body of Christ to the world, starting with each other.
to hear the cousins play at a tiny church festival in San Luis, prompted a leisurely drive back. We took Highway 159 toward Taos, NM, to County Road P, toward Manassa. Mother Mary’s Garden is tucked away on the left. We parked outside the gate and walked in.
Mother Mary’s Garden
is a non-denominational, spiritual oasis. Susan and Milt Sanderford were inspired to create it after a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia. Because of its location, in the middle of the high desert of the San Luis Valley, it is peaceful and serene.
I enjoyed wandering the gardens. Yet I wondered where they got water. I found it noteworthy that this off-grid shrine has a well, with solar-powered timers for watering.
radiate from the iconic statue of Mary in the middle of the garden, to each of the 7 gardens surrounding it. Plenty of scattered benches provide room to rest. In addition to 2 labyrinths, the gardens include a stone circle, a fire pit circle, a medicine wheel, a healing grotto, and a star child circle.
Walking the labyrinths
and strolling the paths is refreshing. The wide expanse of Alpine Valley surrounding Mother Mary’s Garden is soothing to the spirit. Vast, silent mountains provide the perfect setting for meditation and centering.
Afterward, I breathe deeply of the fresh, mountain air and soak in the warm sun as I enjoy the covered swing. Such a lovely, secret garden in what can sometimes be a harsh, unforgiving land.
Plan your pilgrimage:
Pikes Peak Cog Railway,
located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, is a fantastic ride through dense spruce and aspen forests up to 14,000 feet. Our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure started nearly 2 hours late. There were high winds on Pikes Peak, with gusts up to 90 mph. Because of this, we could only go up to 12,000 feet that day. We were given the option for a partial refund, or a reschedule. Since our tickets were comped and we had traveled nearly 200 miles, we opted to go ahead.
While waiting, we browsed the gift shop and snack bar. Tiny O2 canisters were available for those with altitude issues. This is the first time I’d seen them. What a clever idea! Downstairs from the covered seating areas we explored a little stream and enjoyed the shade.
Finally, our train pulled in.
Our conductor, Elliot, was full of goofy tour guide jokes. And our engineer Nick did a great job driving the train up and back. I only had to talk to the man and the boy a couple of times about staying off their phones. The upward journey through the forest, with the heavy scent of pine wafting into the cars, was soothing. We passed several waterfalls, each accompanied by one of Elliot’s anecdotes. Pipe waterfall was particularly entertaining. The water falling out of a pipe…
I think we had the best seats in the coach. Windows all around and right next to the engineer for the return trip. The side windows have hand cranks, just like the old automobiles. You can actually roll the windows down. The wooden seats are definitely not made for luxury.
You can see the cogs down the middle of the tracks.
Hikers can ride the train, too. I don’t know about the cost of that.
The train ride was so popular at one time that there were a couple of one-room hotels, which have collapsed and/or burned down since.
For many years there was a hydroelectric plant along the line and a caretaker lived in this cabin.
There is a beautiful view of Lake Moraine near the top of the pass. The lake supplies water to Colorado Springs.
We had to stop at the Windy Point Station,
elevation 12,000 feet, due to gale force winds at the 14,000 ft. peak. The wind was blowing so hard that large sticks and numerous small items were picked up and flung over the train and station. We could feel the strong vibration of the wind when we put our hands on the windows.
The Mountain View stop
at 10,000 ft has some interesting sights. There is an old train car, OUT house, and hiking trails which cross several streamlets. It felt nice to get off the train and stretch our legs. We had time for a bit of hiking and photo ops with some interesting scenery.
At one point you can even see the city of Colorado springs in the distance.
Descending through the trees
gently brought us back to reality. The October weather had been so mild, and the sun so welcome, despite the wind, that we all felt our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure was over too soon.
Check out our YouTube video on this post. To plan your trip click here: Pikes Peak Cog Railway.
From our spot in southern Colorado, we cut across US Highway 64 to enjoy a scenic drive past Earthship Biotecture communities. Spectacular is the only way to describe the view from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Our destination for the day, Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.
We didn’t stop to photograph the Earthship homes but they are private residences anyway, so that might have been rude. We did stop to take pictures on the bridge, however.
Awarded “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the Long Span category in 1966, it was dubbed the “bridge to nowhere” during construction because there were no funds to finish the road on the other side. The Rio Grande river runs from southern Colorado to Mexico. About 10 miles outside of Taos, it flows through a 50 mile long, 800-foot deep canyon created by earthquakes millions of years ago. From the top, it is hard to imagine that the gorge is home to a rich and diverse ecosystem. Petroglyphs are evidence of early human habitation. There are also supposed to be hidden hot springs and ruins. Consequently, I will need to return in warmer weather to investigate.
The town of Arroyo Seco, New Mexico was originally settled on a Spanish land grant, in 1745. The historic church, La Santisima Trinidad, occupies a prominent place in the town. Arroyo Seco currently caters to tourists and retirees. Only 7 miles from Taos, it is a convenient stop for skiers and hikers. Get home cooked burritos and burgers at tiny convenience stores and food stands along the main drag. Boutique shops feature local artisans and upscale gifts.
carries everything from antiques to handcrafted soaps to toys. Seems like the shelves are bursting with color.
A tiny garden
next to the Mercantile offers a picnic table, benches, and waterfalls, in addition to a reconstructed log cabin dating to the 1860’s. Our visit fell during the Christmas season, and the garden was decked out with a nativity scene and Christmas bells.
carries reasonably priced and southwestern flavored apparel.
We didn’t browse half the shops but there is certainly something for everybody in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. Handwoven rugs, pottery, fine art, and jewelry are just a few that we missed. For more info, you can visit the Arroyo Seco website.