Friday, October 30, 2015
Thin Places in Pawtucket
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can anything sacred come out of Pawtucket? For the Celts the answers to both questions is a resounding YES! Because God is everywhere, we are surrounded by the sacred no matter where we are. As a child I experienced something like a sense of Presence many times in Pawtucket. Where are the thin Places for me in Pawtucket? In my early memories I recall the magical sense of the world holding its breath and the perfect rightness of everything as I walked round and round an immense Copper Beech that flourished in the grounds of Memorial Hospital on the Prospect Street side. I also recall standing transfixed in my friend Lucille's side yard on Columbus Avenue. It was near sunset and the skies were putting on an elaborate display of pinks and magentas and purples and gold. We both stopped throwing the ball,and as I looked up to one enormous cloud formation, it seemed to be penetrated with golden shafts of light. It was as if a great door had opened and I could see the angels lined up within--thronging to the gate and watching down on us. I could not speak right away, but when I could I asked my friend if she saw anything in the sky, and she said, "Yes, a huge cloud like the shape of a castle." By then the formation was moving and morphing and dissolving. But I felt like I had a brief glimpse into heaven. These are only two times, but there were more. They were in childhood. Let me say that I do not think I am special or alone with these moments of revelation. I think that all children have them. But no one talks about them; I did not tell anyone about them. I feared ridicule and even in-- or maybe especially in-- Catholic schools of the 1940s and 50s we were not being told about the possibility of approaching spiritual experience outside of the walls of a church or the time of prayers. Times like those in my adult years have been few and far between-- not entirely absent. Of course, perhaps my professed agnosticism and my hostility to religion made me shake most of them off--but some remain with me. One took place in Istanboul standing with a crowd of people mostly tourists under the great dome of the Blue Mosque. There were some men praying and standing. As I watched them raise their open, empty palms to the heavens, I had a profound certainty that they were right. God is one and HE is All powerful and HE is everywhere. This was the beginning of my getting back that immensely valuable gift--FAITH-- which I had lost for several decades. Most recently I had an intimation of eternity right near by. I was driving down one of the short streets that lead off Central Avenue to the SHOP and Stop Plaza on the Industrial Highway. Suddenly I could only see glory--everywhere I looked--sunflowers blooming, hydrangeas standing with immense flower heads next to broken front steps, brilliant chrysanthemums placed on cracked sidewalks and sagging porches, Knock out roses still rampant in weedy beds. All I could see were the colors, the persistence, the determination to bloom and to show forth the glory of their Creator. I was astounded that I had never noticed them before. So maybe the veil is trembling all the time, and we are all in a thin place if we can only let ourselves see it.