17 January 2007

A time for quiet prayer

I’ve felt rather like a country parson over these past few days. The icy weather cancelled school. The daily Masses have been lightly attended and in the chapel. Traffic into the church yard has been minimal, with very few of the usual visitors stopping in for a quiet prayer or an inquiry about this or that.

When I compare our bit of ice with the winter storms I knew in the northeast it’s almost laughable. But something of the same feeling enveloped us here as I had experienced when a big snow would blow in. That sense of a quasi-holiday, the fairly certain knowledge that unless it was an absolute emergency there was no reason to go out and it was pretty certain that no one would be stopping by for anything but the most serious reason.

Since it was so cold I checked on things in the church frequently, just to make sure a water line hadn’t burst or something like that. What passes for a heating system doesn’t do much other than take the raw chill off the air. We need heat so infrequently in this part of the world that we really tend to concentrate more on having really good air conditioning. It would have been nice to have one of those big New England-style furnaces where you could almost fry an egg on the radiator. No point in wishing for something that would be useless for about 363 days a year.

But as I said, it meant that I checked on things. It was beautiful, going into the quiet and cold church. It gave me an excuse to stop by the various shrines, almost as much for the warmth of the votive candles as for the devotion. I couldn’t help but have a sense of the prayer of lots of faithful people as I saw the reassuring glow of the banks of candles. The Lady Chapel, the St. Joseph Shrine, St. Patrick in his niche, the Pieta, all of them bathed with the flickering evidence of prayers offered on previous days. I stopped and prayed myself, feeling very much as a pastor praying with his people. What intercession each candle held, I do not know. And I didn’t need to know, because God does. It was enough to join my prayers with those already there. A bit of icy weather, the occasional storm, can do a lot of good. It makes us stop for a bit, when otherwise we might not have.