Formerly the Thinking Catholic Strategic Center
William H. Link, November 26, 2011
The priest stands on the walk alongside the driveway into the St Andrew’s Cemetery facing a plot of grass, which separates the driveway from the convent wall. His right hand supports his left arm, which strokes his chin. A voice interrupts his quiet and he looks about for the speaker. “Build me a room!” But then he realizes that the voice came from his own mind.
He responds: “Why do you need a room here?”
“I want a place to meet my children. My children treat me with respect and awe since they think of me as awesome, so awesome as to be unreachable and they think ‘how can such an almighty God care about me when he has all these other things to worry about, like the whole universe.’ I am their father and like all fathers, I love my children. As an artist views his painting or sculpture and sees a masterpiece, I look upon mankind as my masterpiece. No other creation of mine possesses a free will or an eternal soul as does mankind. I want my children to come to me with all their problems and I may appear to them as they imagine me: a child, an adult, or an old man, whichever person that they feel the most comfortable speaking to. I want to talk to them, as you and I do.”
The priest is silent for a moment. Then says: “I will present the idea to the congregation because they are the ones who will carry the burden. Do you have any particular desires in regards to ‘The Room’?”
“My desires will be done in whatever is accomplished. Do not concern yourself with the details. Your congregation is just waiting for a project such as this to draw them together. They want to give of themselves, but struggle with just how to do it and some sacrifices are difficult. This projects will give them a choice of sacrifice, which they can enjoy.”
Pastor Joseph turns and walks to the rectory as he plans on how to inform the congregation. “I will put a simple notice in the Sunday bulletin to see what comes of this.” He sits at his desk and composes a simple message with his plans and a request for their support. He gives the message to his Assistant priest, Father David, and requests that he include it in next Sunday’s bulletin.
Sunday comes and Pastor Joseph serves the noon mass. He returns to the rectory for a little lunch and a nap before the 5:15 mass. He waits at his desk to be called for lunch and the phone rings. He answers with his usual greeting: “Good afternoon, this is pastor Joseph, you have reached the rectory of St Andrew’s Catholic Church. How may I help you?”
“Father, I saw your note in this Sunday’s bulletin regarding the little room you want to build and I may be able to help. I am preparing to build a two-car garage and need to tear down or remove my single car garage. If it will work out, you can have it. I have a neighbor who can move it with his truck, if you prepare the site. I will not need to act for several weeks and that should give you time to coordinate your activities. ”
Father replies: “At this moment I am not sure just how to proceed. Yours is the first call regarding the . . . “Room”. Give me your name, address, and phone number and I will get back to you.” The caller identifies himself as Mack and gives Pastor Joseph his phone number and address.
Pastor Joseph leans back in his chair for a moment before he is called to lunch. As he sits at the dinner table and tests his soup, the phone rings again. He hesitates for a moment. He hears father David, his assistant, take the call and relaxes.
“St Andrew’s Rectory, Father David here, how can I help you?”
“Father! I saw the little message from Pastor Joseph about a room he wants to build. I work for a concrete supply company, which often has returning cement mixers with partial loads and we always look for suitable places to off load our excess. I am sure they would donate the excess if they knew where to put it.”
“Thank you! May I have your name and number so we can call you back?”
“My Name is Glenn and I can be reached at work. The number there is . . .” and he gives father David the information.
Such calls pour in while Pastor Joseph lunches and father David continues to take the calls. When Pastor Joseph finishes, he takes the napkin from his lap, lays it on the table and bows his head as he says his grace. He leans toward the door, then goes out.
“Thank you for the back up:” he says to father David as he seats himself behind the desk and looks at the list of notes father David placed there. “I think I am going to need your help with this. Would you mind getting involved?”
“Yes, of course. This would be a great contrast to my regular duties.”
“Well, then, sit down here by me and we can go over what we have so far.”
The two of them lean over the desk and the several notes. Father David starts sorting them in order of purpose and finds that they have a good beginning. “We will need to contact the city building inspector for the permits required in this case. In my last parish they did some building and I enjoyed working with the city inspectors. They were most helpful when they learned it was a church project. The inspectors would drop by during construction and offer suggestions. That avoided problems as we proceeded.”
“Fine.” says Pastor Joseph. “You can do whatever you want. This is a poor parish. So, up until now, building was impossible. I could use your knowledge.”
There is a timid knock on the rectory side door as one of the cemetery landscape workers stands outside with his cap in his hand running the rim of the bill along in his fingers. Pastor Joseph opens the door and greets him. “Good afternoon, Pedro. It is unusual to see you here on Sunday. Is something wrong?”
“Oh! Nothing is wrong, Father, I saw the note in the Sunday bulletin and wanted you to know that I have some experience with masonry work and could help, because I am around here most of the time anyway.”
Pastor Joseph looks over his shoulder at Father David and says: “Did you say we had a source for concrete? We also have a source for the work, Senior Pedro advises me that he has some experience in the trade and is willing to do that along with his caretaker role.”
“Just who is planning this? Father. I think we have help way beyond our expectations.”
“Well, You might say that. Lets allow this project to roll because it seems to have its own momentum:” quips Pastor Joseph.
Pastor Joseph tells Pedro what the plans are and what has conspired in these few hours. Pedro nods and says: “Padre! I will check with you or father David often. May I offer the help of the other workers under me? Like me, some are retired and are very talented in many trades.”
Pastor Joseph looks back at Father David and says: “They are coming out of the woodwork, so to speak. Would you mind coordinating this, I’m getting overwhelmed.” Father David laughs and says, “As long as it is the work of the Lord”
Pastor Joseph comments, “You don’t know the half of it.”
Pedro says goodbye and hurries away, his purpose in mind.
As days pass, each problem presents itself and is acted upon. An unusual report reaches Pastor Joseph. As the workers prepare the site for the donated garage structure, they encounter a barrier just below the grass which wont let their shovels pass. They call Father to have a look. Pastor Joseph and Father David walk over to the place where the “Room” will stand and they see a small pile of dirt and grass. As they look into the hole, they see what appears to be a tile floor. Pastor Joseph admits that it is a mystery to him.
Pedro stands nearby and speaks: “Padre, I recall a parishioner who did this sort of work, but now he is very old and lives in the nursing home up the street. May I go get him to see if he has any knowledge of this?” “Yes, but do not stress him, be kind.”
Pedro says: “Adios Padre:” as he goes to his old trusty pickup truck and drives off.
He returns very quickly with a grey-haired old man riding beside him. The old man wears an elbow patched sweater and a warm cap. He waits for Pedro to come around and open the passenger door for him. Pedro helps him out and the old man, named Barny, canes his way over to the hole in the ground.
“I hope my friend, Pedro, did not disturb you:” says Pastor Joseph.
“No, not at all” greets the elderly man. “Pedro said you wanted to know if I understood what you have here. I indeed do. About 60 years ago I laid a floor out here to provide a place for wedding parties to gather for pictures, or receptions. I covered almost all of this area with imported donated tile from an old dismantled church in the old country. I set them in sand to permit eventual future relocation. You should be able to take it up and use it as you will. It is like an icon in that there is the image of a very large white dove centered in the space. This is as though we are inviting the Holy Ghost to bless each event.”
Pastor Joseph sighed: “Kind of like it was intended for use in the ‘Room’. You can rest assured that it will be treated with the greatest respect”
The workers began to remove the grass and dirt covering the tile as one of them commented: “No wonder we had trouble growing grass here. The tile stopped the grass from reaching water.” The grass and dirt came up very quickly as the workers knew what they were dealing with. It was not long before the whole area revealed the tile set in sand. The old man’s memory brought tears to his eyes
It started to rain and the tile grew muddy. After several hours of heavy rain washed the tile, it glistened like new. The white dove became very clear and it was amazing. No one knew how long this lay covered waiting for this day. Pastor Joseph said: “Leave it there until after Sunday so the congregation may have a look at it.” Later that week, the workers removed the tile and carefully piled it against the convent building nearby.
It did not take long for the news to spread and local newspapers photographed and wrote about the hidden floor advertising “The Room”. The planers decided that the time would become the floor of the “Room” and all planning revolved around preparing the foundation and laying the floor.
The little garage found its new home, Pedro approached Pastor Joseph and commented: “Padre! There is a locked storeroom in the basement of the church. I opened it and found a collection of thing, which we might use in the room. Would you like to see it?”
“Of course” responded Pastor Joseph. “I never had time to look in there after I came to serve as pastor here. What is in it?”
“Come and see:” says Pedro.
The three of them descend the stairs into the maw of the church basement, which use to be used for extra masses when the congregation was larger. Dust covered the seats and everywhere else. Senior Pedro took some keys from his pocket and approached the storeroom door. Two locks secured the storage room, one in the knob and the other in a deadbolt as an attempt to protect the contents. He opens the door and walks into the room toward the center where he reaches up and pulls the string of a single light bulb in the middle of the room. They all look around at the collection of chairs, tables, pictures and stained glass windows and other things. Cloth covers protected some articles against time.
“I think we need an inventory before we start looking at things, so I will ask Mrs. Anderson to look this over. She operates an antique store in town and would know what to do. We may need someone to select those objects, which might go in ‘The Room’. Father David, would you see to that?”
The floor for “The Room” and the foundation were laid and the truck from Mr. Cartwright and friend arrived with the one-car garage on the back. A crew was on hand to place it on the foundation and tile. After much tugging and pushing, the truck drove out from underneath “The Room” leaving the ghost of what it would soon be standing forlorn waiting for the final touches which would raise it to a level of Holy, like the little church of St Francis sitting in the basilica in Assisi Italy.
The work proceeded and “The Room” quickly took shape. The construction complied with the city building codes and the inspectors were all smiling. Stained glass windows came from the basement storeroom, as did four chairs, a kneeler, and a strong table. Appropriate paintings adorned the walls. Soon Pastor Joseph held a little blessing ceremony at “The Room“ and it stood ready for visitors.
Pastor Joseph was the first to enter. He looked about and sat in the chair in the middle of the room. The door closed. He offered “The Room” in a little prayer to our Father. “Father may your children all find you here and come to know you as you wish. Many wait. First, all the workers and their families and then the rest of the congregation.”
The figure of a man with a black beard and black hair dressed in a monks robe sits in the chair behind the table. “Thank you, Joseph” this is the first of many “Rooms”, which I will erect around the world much as this one.” He disappears.
Pastor Joseph leaves and lets the door stand open. Many of God’s children visit that day and for weeks after, until the procession settled to a steady flow.
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