The Devil Waits Outside the Church

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.

devil waits
St. Michael and the Devil

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.

 

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La Santisima Trinidad, Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

la santisima trinidad, arroyo seco, nm

Blanketed in the first snow of the season, La Santisima Trinidad radiates hope to the surrounding community of Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. Built in 1834, the historic church stands as a monument to the families who originally settled the area. That the Catholic faith thrived during a period when there were very few priests available to serve the faithful in the rural southwest, is hope to us in these uncertain political times here in the United States.

cupola, la santisima trinidad, nm

The ancient brotherhood of the penitentes is primarily responsible for nurturing the faith during this period, though their methods came under scrutiny by church authorities. Nevertheless, despite the severity of some of their practices, there continue to be many Catholics in the mountains and plains of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

graveyard, la santisima trinidad, nm          cemetary, la santisima trinidad, nm

On the day we visited La Santisima Trinidad, we found the church was locked. No one came forth to open it, so we explored. We enjoyed wandering the churchyard and examining the grave markers. They fill the area around the church. The building has obviously been lovingly restored. Learn more about that at the following link for inside pics. Several well-placed benches hint at a pleasant garden in warmer seasons.

graveyard benck, la santisima trinidad, nm

Click here to see some lovely pictures of the inside of La Santisima Trinidad:

http://altbuildblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/inside-la-santisima-trinidad-church-in.html

Once the snow flies and cabin fever sets in, a day trip towards Taos, New Mexico is always fun. Just 80 miles from Santa Fe, the Arroyo Seco area is full of historic sites, alternative housing, and breathtaking scenery. The town of Arroyo Seco, just 7 miles from Taos, hosts a number of boutiques and several eating establishments. Plenty of activity to satisfy the casual tourist despite inclement weather.

la santisima trinidad nm sign          historic church, la santisima trinidad, nm

Call to verify Mass and Confessions at the historic church and its missions, listed here: http://www.visitseco.com/arroyo_seco_catholic_church.php

 

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The Church of Itinerant Musicians

itinerant musician
seek ye first

My home church has been welcoming itinerant musicians for as long as I can remember. St. Anne’s is a small mission church, 50 miles from everywhere in Northern Arizona. When I arrived here, there was a choir and an organist. Within a few years, that entire group had moved on and I became the organist and choir director. I was able to recruit a guitar player who handled the Spanish speaking music. We work well together. He holds the music together now, and graciously welcomes me to join him whenever I am back in town. For years, we have welcomed any musicians traveling through to join us. We have been blessed with some beautiful voices and instruments through the years. We are so hungry for beautiful music. Our pastors have graciously smiled upon this. In such a small community, we are totally dependent upon God’s merciful provision for our spiritual needs. There was even a period of a few years that we relied upon visiting priests only, as we didn’t have a pastor assigned to us. Even then, the Sunday without Mass was rare.

I miss my music ministry when I am on the road. So I am eternally grateful to join in whenever I can. And eternally grateful to step back in as though I never left, when I am home. There are times when I need to sit back and soak in the music ministry of others. But a musician sings and plays, a writer writes, an artist creates because they must. We are driven. It is life to us. We must share or die. And if we die sharing, then life has been good.

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Mass In Yellowstone NP, Wyoming


From the windows of the rec room, there is a panoramic view of the mists still rising off of Yellowstone Lake. (Okay, not in this picture.) Mass is about to begin and the young celebrant is scurrying around, arranging the altar, consulting with the pianist and greeting tourists – some in their Sunday best, some in hiking apparel.


It is interesting to note that the murmur of voices is at a far lower level than in many Catholic churches these days. Is it because we naturally respect the sacred ground we are visiting? I know that my own awe and humility are greatly increased by the wonders of Yellowstone. 


The altar is a card table, the lectern a music stand, but somehow it feels as if we are in an ancient cathedral. We are. Sometimes it is difficult to find Mass while traveling. Many National Parks, through the diligent efforts of the local Catholic communities, and even sometimes through the efforts of the local diocese, will have Sunday Mass scheduled. This may not be posted in the guide books or newsletters, but a query at one of the lodges in the park is likely to turn up a schedule of Sunday services for several denominations. Even if a regularly scheduled Mass is not available, I have found that sometimes a visiting priest is kind enough to ask for a place to celebrate Mass and pass the word as to location and time.


Yellowstone Lake Lodge is such an ethereal setting for Mass. I have to wonder if this might not be a little taste of heaven.

Check out these posts, too:

Oregon’s Best For Last – Mt. Hood

Great Sand Dunes NP and Preserve, CO

Grand Canyon Pilgrimage

Grand Canyon Caverns

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Slow Travel: Freedom To Roam – Or Not

Sangre de Christo Mts. Colorado

Change of plans. My son’s grandma is dying. Quickly. We are finishing out the winter in Colorado, after all. Minimizing our life into a 28 ft. RV and a 14 ft. vintage trailer has given us the freedom to be able to be here with her and grandpa. Slow travel means we can stay here as long as needed and postpone our planned trip to Texas until fall or whenever. Our income does not depend on us being in a certain place at a certain time.

Yak and ma at Gator Farm 

Homeschooling/roadschooling means Yak is not tied to someone else’s schedule or agenda. He does his assignments when he chooses, as long as he gets them done. If he doesn’t, he knows he will be doing them before anything else, the next day. This frees him up to explore the grandparents’ homestead and visit with his aunts, uncles, cousins and older brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, as they filter in and out, paying their last visits to grandma. Now that the weather is warming up, we are also able to explore more of the local area – field trips for Yak; caregiver breaks for his dad. Who would ever look for sand dunes (Great SandDunes National Park) or an alligator farm (Colorado Gators) in the Rocky Mountain State?

Yak and pa at Sand Dunes

Slow travel allows us to find community in the local Catholic Church. The ladies of the Catholic Mothers Society come over to pray the rosary with the grands a couple of days a week. This gives them great joy. To see the smile on grandpa’s face with his family and friends praying around him, the peace in grandma’s eyes and her joy at having her friends come to see her is a great relief to the brothers and sisters who are staying on to care for their parents. The parish priest sends Holy Eucharist home for the grands with whichever son or daughter makes it to 8a.m. Mass; sometimes he brings it in person.

 

Pretty Ms. Susie, soaking up the sun

Not having to confine our travels to 2 or 3 weeks out of the year and the odd weekend, we don’t have the stress of trying to see everything as fast as we can. Living tiny forces us to reduce the clutter in our lives. Cooking and cleaning are done quickly. There is more time to play music, walk the dogs, and laugh at the cat trying to catch the laser pointer. With no set time for getting up or going to bed, we can stay up late to stargaze and sleep in the next day. Or we can get up to enjoy the sunrise and get back in our jammies right after supper.

We are most blessed to be able to be available to our families when they need us.

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