25 April 2013

The Pulpit Crucifix

The crucifix at the back of the pulpit at Our Lady of the Atonement Church has an interesting but somewhat obscure history. For us, it goes back to about 1986, when the original church was being constructed.

Even in those early days, as our congregation was growing with the steady addition of remarkable converts and many solid families, our parish managed also to attract a certain number of eccentrics - people who didn't fit well into general society, but who found a spiritual home with us in which they felt safe and accepted. One such person was a man who called himself Brother Tony. He identified himself as a hermit.

I have no idea if he was a refugee from some religious community, or simply an individual who was fed up with society and wished to live a life of solitude. Whatever his background, he appeared harmless enough, and was able to profess a refined and completely Catholic understanding of the Faith. Regular in attending Mass, from time to time he would even mix a bit with the congregation; however, when he wanted to be left alone he let it be known.

One day he came to me and asked if he could live on the property, which at that time was heavily wooded. When I asked him what he would have for shelter, he told me he had an old metal shed which he would like to put on the far side of the property, very much out of the way and unable to be seen from the area where the church was being built. When I pointed out that there would be no electricity, he said he didn't need it. All he would need, he said, was to be able to fill a tank with water from our supply from time to time. He assured me he would be totally self-sufficient, would bother no one, and simply wanted to live out in the woods so he could pray. I agreed, and he lived that way for a couple of years, until one day he decided to move on, and he left as mysteriously as he had arrived.

Brother Tony's metal shed was the only indication he had ever been with us. After his departure I went into it and found only one thing: a crucifix. Why he left it behind, I do not know. He had very few (if any) belongings to speak of, and perhaps he decided he wanted to be completely free of any possessions whatsoever. Whatever the reason for leaving it, I decided to find a home for it in the church - and so it found its place, at the pulpit.