A real church


I still vividly recall my first visit to Sacred Heart with Aunt Rachel, mom’s youngest sister.  I was about four or five and so totally awed by the grandness of the church— wood floors, very high ceilings, enormous stained-glass windows— that I was too captivated to make a peep.

Sacred Heart Church was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen!

Segy’s tuba

Decades later, when Segy and I were parishioners, we met some of the nicest folks at Sacred Heart.

Segy was in the high school band program then so, all on his own, he decided to bring his tuba along to accompany the organist, who looked more than surprised— most likely tiffed— that he’d dared to do the unthinkable.  I mean, c’mon.  A tuba?!! she must’ve thought.  But Segy was not to be dissuaded.

Sometimes Mrs. Merta, a teacher friend we’d met at the elementary school where I’d taught and Segy had attended, would substitute.  Her husband was a well-known band director who loved the tuba, so Mrs. Merta was always complimentary of Segy and even rewarded him with a well deserved token of her esteem.  “Let him keep it.  He earned it,” she’d insist with a smile.

It was a very special time for me, too.  I was part of the choir even though I’d never thought I had a good singing voice.  And everyone in the group was so very, very nice.  A wonderful experience all the way around!

Lots of memories

As Steven opened the door for me to enter Sacred Heart a couple of weekends ago, the greeter wasn’t the Irish gentleman who’d always twinkled at Segy and me when we arrived for eleven-thirty Mass Sunday morning.

John O’Leary was always glad to see us.  He’d get really close as he handed me the church bulletin and tell me a quick story or two about his beloved Chicago.  His take on the great fire of 1871 was a hoot.  Then again he always got a charge out of making me laugh; and he was a spiffy dresser, too.  John was the leprechaun’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a real gentleman.

Although I didn’t recognize the greeter this time, the first person I noticed talking to someone in the very last pew was the organist whom I’d always thought was a nun.  She wouldn’t have remembered me, so I kept walking to the seventh center pew, outside right— the one that Segy and I had occupied until we joined the choir.

Sitting there, I recognized two others.  A white-haired woman with a sweet smile sitting in her usual spot— left center aisle seat, third pew— whose sister mom had known through the altar society at Christ the King.  And a tall man— the lector with the same robust voice as before— who sat on the extreme left near the aisle seat, first pew, in front of the pulpit.

None of the other regulars were there but, looking around, I readily envisioned them in their respective places.  I hadn’t known them all by name, yet I easily remembered their heartfelt smiles and their lighthearted conversations.  No matter that most of them had been much older than the rest of us, they welcomed all who celebrated Mass in their beloved Sacred Heart.

Lots of delectable recollections gushed forth as I savored my time in church.  Lingering about after Mass.  Talking with various folks.  Charles and his sister, whose parents always helped with counting money and other responsibilities.  Vicki and Tom, newlyweds in their much later years.  Evening choir rehearsals for Christmas and Easter Masses.  Frs. Moran, Sheehan, and Lanese.  Judge Garza, whom President Kennedy had appointed to the U.S. district court, and his family who shared space with the rest of us off and on during the year.  The visiting priest from Port Isabel who, in his infinite wisdom, compared the soul to a multifaceted crystal vase in his unforgettable homily.  So many excellent memories!

Same as always

??????????I was beyond glad to be back at Sacred Heart after so many years— too many, really— that I wondered what’d kept me away after Segy left for Wabash.

Tears filled my eyes.  Don’t do it.  Don’t cry.  You won’t be able to stop, I told myself.  I felt Segy so strongly that persistent tears streamed down my face even after wiping at them again and again.

I’d been gone more than twelve years, and yet I’d never left.  Funny, too, how Steven had taken Segy’s (Steven’s) place beside me at the very same pew we’d occupied so many years before.

A real church

In the midst of all these memories and emotions I’d been listening to Fr. Joe’s homily.

“This is a real church,” Father said before repeating for emphasis.  “This— is a real church.”

Yes, I smiled.  This is what I’ve been telling Steven all along.  Not all churches are real, but I know real.  So, maybe now having heard it from someone else who knows, he’ll believe me.

And whomever has said— me included— that one can’t ever go back isn’t altogether correct.  Sacred Heart is as it’s always been: beautiful, peaceful, embracing.  Real.











April 20, 2015

In a spirit of openheartedness, we need to listen to the unexpected and to embrace the new and different in the passage of scripture that we are pondering.

As I am reading the scriptures as if for the first time, help me, Spirit of God, to surrender to the unknown, letting your Word shape and form me into your likeness (Sister Maria Tasto, OSB, 1938-2014).

June 15, 2015

There is a subtle difference between listening and reflecting.  So often we do not listen as deeply as we could.  We tend to rush right into reflective thoughts and miss the real point of the conversation.

Gently remind me, O God, to listen deeply to what you are communicating. Give me the patience to hang out with the reading, letting it take me to a deeper level within myself.  Help me to savor the word or phrase that catches my attention, hearing WHAT is being said (Sister Maria Tasto).


Links of interest…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville TX…  Great Chicago fire…  Immaculate Conception Cathedral (ICC)…  Judge Reynaldo Garza: biography (YouTube) / collection…  Sacred Heart Church (about / video)…  Sisters of St. Benedict (Indiana): Monday messages / prayer requestswebsite…  Valley Catholic: Church of the week (SHC)…

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Backtracking…  Beautiful sacred space…  Budding relationships…  Building community…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Connected tangents…  Father now retired…  Father’s guided tour…  Heart of hearts…  Home again…  Memory lane…  Our Lady’s church…  Promise of hope…  Right at home…  Sacred Heart…  Sacred Heart Church…  Seven dwelling places…  Soulful…  Sweet Jesus

4 Responses

  1. Lovely post. I especially enjoyed photos from stained glass windows. How beautiful they are!

    BTW, I’ll be off and will return after three weeks on Friday with a new post. My wife started her holiday and next Monday we are going to the North far beyond the Arctic Circle by our car. The trip is planned to last from 10 to 12 days.

    Today I posted about a cruise on a lake. I hope that you like it.

    • OMG!!! OMG!!!

      Just thinking about the Arctic Circle makes me shiver ’cause, believe it or not, this Chicken Little thinks any temperature lower than seventy degrees is cold, cold, cold. And this is a South Texan, mind you, who lives in very warm weather most of the year.

      At the same time, I can hardly wait to read about your upcoming adventure, as it reminds me of my grade school days when I first read about the Arctic.

      OMG. That’s sooo exciting!

      Y’all have a wonderful, safe trip.

      Stay warm!

      P.S. I’ll most certainly check out your new post as I wonder what treasures are in store from the Arctic next time around.

  2. A church is like a government or a society or a corporation: a group of people supposedly united in their goals and beliefs and pulling together for the good of all.

    We tend to think of a church as a building, a box where God lives. God lives everywhere. The box is where most go to spend their one hour per week of worship.

    The box should be inspirational during that hour, and we should eagerly anticipate being there. But it should also beckon when we can’t be there. That anticipation should translate to prayer and worship throughout the week when we are absent from the box but still in God’s presence.

    The church within the church (people in the box) should be social, interactive, and alive. The church outside the church should encourage and foster that by energizing contemplation and participation.

    Some have beautiful boxes and weak congregations; others have wonderful fellowship and lousy boxes. There are an unfortunate number that are lacking in either. When you find one that has both, it is electrifying. That happened in Nacogdoches. I felt the beginning of that two weeks ago. Is it merely coincidence that both are Sacred Heart?

    The best way to see Disneyland is with a tour guide. Maybe priests should wear Mickey Mouse costumes. Unfortunately, too many of them act like Goofy and serve neither of the churches (C, c). They allow the people to be merely a crowd that pays the price of admission, but they miss the real Magical Kingdom.

    • Gosh, I know just what you mean, jellybean. I, too, loved Sacred Heart Church in Nacogdoches!

      The people were the friendliest I’ve ever met! They really did make us feel right at home… the very same way we felt visiting Sacred Heart in Brownsville, which is why I kept thinking I wanted to name this post “right at home.” But I’d already given that distinction to SHC in Nacogdoches.

      Yet, differences exist between the churches… Segy and the Holy Infant of Prague… and these make SHC in Brownsville all that more endearing.

      Thanks so much for taking the time out of your very busy day to post your comment.

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