A time of peace
St. Mary’s Chapel
As I’ve mentioned more than a few times, I’ve recently had some medical stuff done. Hand surgery, to be precise. But there was also a EKG heart test and blood tests. As such, I’ve spent quite a bit of time wandering around various medical facilities. And it was while I was wandering around St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center that I discovered its little chapel has regular services—OK, semi-regular. I say semi-regular because I went at noon on Monday, and sat there for 20 minutes before one of the smarter attendees went out to see if there’d been any schedule changes. There was, and there was no service that day.
But, somehow, it didn’t bother me too much. I sat there in the cool, wood paneled little chapel, natural light streaming in, a large, abstract stained glass window taking my mind to places it didn’t mind going.
The chapel is small, seating about 67 people tops, and I can’t imagine the circumstances by which it would ever fill up—a natural disaster or something else horrible. The altar, which was draped in purple, a lectern and a brass-looking tabernacle to the rear, is about all that disturbs the simplicity of the chancel. On the walls, there were a few statues and the Stations of the Cross in the rear. There was a small piano in the back corner. It’s a quiet, meditative space.
Father John Bain presided over the noon service on Tuesday. I’ve been in a somewhat tumultuous state as of late, between the surgery and other issues, and I haven’t slept a complete night since my hand was worked on. He began the service by telling the nine-person congregation that spiritual writers say that an important part of prayer is stilling the mind, so that we can hear what God has to say. I was definitely buying what he was selling—moving into a meditative space almost on command.
The father exudes good humor and sincerity, and with the small group participating, this was really the most intimate Catholic service I’ve ever attended. Often, priests seem distant, raised high on the chancel, above the congregation. Such is not the case in the little chapel, and Fr. Bain makes constant eye contact with the people in the sanctuary. The readings that afternoon were from Daniel 9:4b-10 which is about penitence and guilt, suitable for the Lenten season. The gospel reading was Luke 6:36-38, which also seemed appropriate, including the lines: “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
The priest gave a short homily, again on the subject of stillness and quieting the mind. He’s reading the book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, by Fr. James Martin, and it’s plain he’s getting a great inspiration from it. He spoke of a personal experience, wanting to go see a friend in the hospital in Carson City, but just having too much on his plate. He spoke about how he stilled his mind and listened for instruction. “It’s during this quiet time that God tells us what we need to hear,” he said. “[And God said to me], ‘There are other days you can see her.’ And I felt at peace.
“[Prayer] has to be a time that we go to a quiet place and get our body and our being in sync with that peace, and allow God to tell us what we need to hear right now.”
He invited us all up on the chancel, to gather around the altar as he prepared communion. It’s a point of view I haven’t seen since I was an altar boy more than 30 years ago. I’m certain that many people in the room had never seen it that close and personal.
I don’t know that many people are looking for a meditative place to observe a Catholic service at lunchtime, but it’s there for those who crave a little peace and quiet in the afternoon.