The Church Was Locked

I decided to visit St. Philip Neri Church here in Westport, New York. It was Friday, almost 6 pm; the front door was locked. I tried the back door. Also locked.

Charlotte was with me. We were on our way to pick up Chris from rehearsal at the Father Mac Hall across the street from the church.

“Let’s just sit and pray quietly in the graveyard,” I suggested.

“No way!” She said. “You’re crazy.”

But she walked with me towards the large crucifix, way over to the side, through the rows of headstones.

There was nowhere to sit.

Charlotte felt brave and silly and, for some reason, danced around.

“Please rest your body and your song. Sit beside me quietly.” I perched on a little hill at the foot of the Cross. She stood beside me quietly for about a minute.

I think Char felt the whole outing was creepy. Even though every night, we are reading Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book,” which kind of makes you think graveyards are actually nurturing, though, yes, creepy places.

I had taken the girls six months, maybe a year ago, to Columbia University to hear Gaiman read that story. We were in the balcony. The girls were very restless. Listening to an author read, even the author of “Coraline,” was not their cup of tea. I am digressing.

Another digression. After dinner, two young missionaries from The Church of Latter Day Saints visited our house. The kids were quite curious to hear the front doorbell ring and to see anyone appear at the front door. It’s a very long driveway and they must’ve walked to the house because there was no car nearby. We were cordial to the two young, beautiful, friendly women; I told them that we were also Christian and we were very happy with our current church. That I felt all religions had beauty and meaning.

“It’s nice to meet fellow Christians,” the dark-haired girl said.

So although I did not go to church today, church tried to come to me.

Earlier, when Charlotte and I walked out of the graveyard behind the St. Philip Church, the bells tolled. They rang six times.

I learned a few things:

1. Churches may be locked

2. Maybe it’s best not to take my kids with me on my Church-A-Day outings.

3. Expect church in unlikely places.

Googling St. Philip Neri, I read he was a “humorous saint.”

Many people wrongly feel that such an attractive and jocular personality as Philip’s cannot be combined with an intense spirituality. Philip’s life melts our rigid, narrow views of piety. His approach to sanctity was truly catholic, all-embracing and accompanied by a good laugh. Philip always wanted his followers to become not less but more human through their striving for holiness. –

I like that. I also like his quote, “Let me get through today, and I shall not fear tomorrow.”

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