Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Holy Week Tugs at the Heart Strings

This is Holy Week 2015 and my memory is going crazy, pulling up things from my childhood in Euclid and at St. William's Church. Memory is also calling up my many visits to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Euclid, as well as family trips to Martin, Floyd County, Kentucky and our annual stays at the Dwelling Place Monastery with the Mt. Tabor Benedictine nuns.

An old Gregorian chant heard throughout my childhood keep running through my head: "Parce, Domine! Parce populo tuo. Ne in aeternum, irascaris nobis." In English, "Spare, O Lord! Spare your people. Be not angry with us forever!" I remember so vividly the solemn rituals of Holy Week, the cloaked crucifix and statues (covered with purple linen), the haunting rituals of Good Friday when we remember the Crucifixion, the emptiness of Holy Saturday, the joy of Easter Sunday. On Good Friday the bells rung at the Consecration were replaced with clappers. The psychological impact on me was incredible. I loved the mournful songs and chants, sung and played in minor keys. I loved that there were very few Easter songs. The popular culture couldn't figure out how to exploit Good Friday and Easter Sunday with the shameful orgy of commercialism that has become the Christmas season in America.

As a kid my Dad would take us over to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes--right where Chardon Road (US Rt. 6) meets Euclid Avenue (US Rt. 20), the holiest place in Euclid. We would walk the hillside Stations of the Cross, praying at each of the 14 stations. On Friday we would keep silent from 12 Noon until 3 PM and we always expected Mother Nature to reflect the solemnity of the occasion, with cloudy skies, rain, or snow flurries. I cannot contemplate this season without thinking of Dad, Mom, my sister, and brothers at the Shrine. We took Julia, Carolan, and Emily there as they were growing up. I hope they don't forget it.

I also think of the many years we would travel, in the 1990's and early 2000's, driving from Euclid or Chardon to Floyd County, Kentucky, to see Steve and Sue Sanders and their children. Most of the time we would stay in the guest house of the Dwelling Place Monastery, home of the Mt. Tabor Benedictine nuns. These were among the most liberated Christian nuns on the planet. They finally left the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church and became a freer ecumenical community. Holy Saturday was so special with the sisters (who absolutely loved our visits and planned activities for our girls and their cousins). They would design a beautiful ritual, which began with an outdoor bonfire, and then a candlelit procession into the chapel, set on the mountainside. A place so beautiful (and amid such ugliness and poverty) it would break your heart. The sisters there taught us to pray not just to the patriarchal God we were so familiar with, but also "Sophia," the feminine spirit of God--really, the Holy Spirit. We would laugh and joke about these prayers, but we were praying in a new and radical way--and a truthful way.

I always associate our trips to Mt. Tabor and the Sanders family with the spectacular blooms of spring, in particular the redbud trees, a riot of reds and purples, and the dogwood, with their cream-white and sometimes pinkish blossoms. These trees would limn the creeks and hillsides and announce the Resurrection of nature after a hard winter.

The last time I saw my mother-in-law, Ruth Sanders, was at the Dwelling Place Monastery. It was 2007, weeks before her sudden passing. Ruth Sanders was a force, and she has left her mark on many people, including our children. We miss her so much; may she rest in peace.

I am grateful for all these memories. I have lived them. I was there. I am a witness.

Sisters of Mt. Tabor/Dwelling Place Monastery.
First Floor of the Mt. Tabor Guest House, where we stayed every Easter.


Julia Kleppel said...

Carolan and I were just talking about Mt. Tabor yesterday. We were saying how lucky we were to have had those times together with a lot of family. That was so unique!

View from the North Coast said...

That's right, Jul! I hope we can get back there some time.