27 May 2003

Mass yesterday was interesting. Our Lady of the Pines is one of the mission churches of a neighboring county, and is served by a priest who also serves two other mission churches nearby, St. Joseph's and Our Lady of the Lake. Our Lady of the Pines consists of a small structure, open on one side, which houses the altar, ambo, and priest's chair, with a sacristy in the back. With absolutely no shelter but the trees above are the rows of white-painted wooden pews and kneelers where the congregation sits. The highway is about forty feet behind the structure which houses the altar. The priest pauses when motorcyclists go by because the congregation cannot hear him over the roar of the engines. It is in operation from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and this is the way it has been for twenty years. There is a new priest almost every year, and sometimes visitors. You never know who will be saying Mass. The priest this week announced that St. Joseph's is petitioning to be made a parish, and if their request is granted, the pastor will of course continue to serve Our Lady of the Pines and Our Lady of the Lake. They also want to build a community center and a new church for St. Joseph's because the current church is too small and there is no parking lot.

Please pray for the success of this community. The county has the highest percentage of people on welfare in the state. It is quite a depressed area, but the Catholic community there is strong and I think they will do well if they can maintain that sense of unity. Our Lady of the Pines is a beautiful place. Since I'm of Celtic origin, I might say it seems to be one of the "thin places," where the veil between the worlds is thin and nearly transparent. "Otherworldly" would be a more common term, I suppose. For walls, tree trunks; for a roof, tree branches; for stained-glass windows, the light shining through the green leaves; for musical accompaniment, bird songs and a babbling brook. I'm not advocating this as how all churches should be (the car noise from the highway and the dirty pews being examples of the problems), as the architecture of man is beautiful and worthy. But it was lovely to spend some time in a church whose architecture was mostly of God's design.

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