Every year on Christmas Eve, “Santa” without fail, would bring me a model Noah’s Ark. Before I could play with it, after all the wrapping paper was picked up, and sometimes before, I would bug my father to put it together. He would glue the two portions of the ark together, sometimes that night, so I could immediately play with my new toy, when the glue dried. I would sit for hours, laying on my stomach, setting up the animals two by two, pretending I was just as small as the plastic pieces and I was going to enter the ark with them. After all, God was about to destroy the “bad people”. I wondered for hours what it was really like. What it must have looked like and wished I was in Noah’s family during the great flood.
As much as I loved that toy ark and as much joy it brought me, my lack of caring for it was the reason it needed to be replaced yearly. Between the family dog chewing up the animals, slowly, one by one due to my leaving them out or my moms vacuum cleaner sucking them up, and my own destructiveness, they ended up with the same fate of my brothers army men, usually in the vintage hand crank 1940’s ice crusher in the basement. The ark itself, that my father glued together, would always end up in the bottom of the toy box, crushed by the weight of the junk piled on top of it.
The story of Noah was always my favorite as a child. By the age of 10 or so, I became “To Big” to want THAT toy anymore. Quickly forgetting the hours of wondering and joy it brought me. Not much longer after that, unfortunately, my faith, took the exact same path. I won’t go into details regarding my conversion back to the Catholic Church at this time but it has been a solid five years or more, that I am home again. I will say, the day my conversion back home began was on September 23, 1996, just after six at night, when the Lord took the man who glued all those arks together, home. The road back home, in many many ways, was like waiting “for the glue to dry”.
A few weeks before this past Christmas, I was in need of confession. My husband had been working weekends and making it to confession on Saturdays was next to imposable because I would have to bring my two small children with me. Mind you, they are 4 and 5 and them sitting quietly, without mom for any given second, IN church, while mom is in the confessional is WAY to much to ask of them. Something had been weighing very heavy on my soul and I didn’t want to wait for an appointment time with my priest. I looked for any Catholic Church where confession was offered at a different time and found Saint Joseph’s Cathedral. I was so happy for two reasons. One, I found a church and two, I had never been in a cathedral before.
I arrived at the Cathedral 20 minutes before the doors were open. I sat on the front steps and prayed until it was time to go in. When I walked in, my eyes were adjusting to to the light change and I was blinded for a few moments until my eyes adjusted and was overwhelmed with the beauty I was seeing. The extremely large stained glass windows let in the only light at that time, along with the light that came in through the open doors. There were workmen everywhere doing reconstruction work, but it didn’t take away the beauty from this place I was in. I preceded to walk to the confessional and stand in line during this visit. My mind was more on my confession and not where I was confessing. After the sacrament, daily mass was offered and I stayed. When it was over, I knew I didn’t have much time to spend in this beautiful place, and my return back was a must.
My return trip was for daily mass and of course, confession again, a week before Christmas. For the first time in my life, during this trip to the confessional, I was able to hear the words “I absolve you of these sins, and all your sins”, with my heart. I walked out of the confessional, sat in the pew and felt the weight of the world come off my shoulders. I became so relaxed, I stretched my arms across the back of the pew, and tossed my head back, looking up to the ceiling to thank Christ for the joy and peace, and at that exact moment, He took my breath away again. I stared in amazement at the beamed ceiling. The massive roof trusses all exposed, just like Noah’s Ark. I went limp and I remembered the gift I received every Christmas.
I then noticed the small hatch like windows along with the porthole lights just below the roof line, reminiscent of a ship’s. Knowing full well, God’s plan to Noah, did not have these, but wondered if it was God’s plan for me to catch this detail, to remind me of the hours I spent as a child and the “Great Flood” of remembering filled me. I pondered my 40 plus years alive and Noah’s 40 day’s and nights, on his ark, and the rainbow, God’s covenant with man, that he would never destroy the earth in that manner again. But rather with fire. A similar fire I have felt, with the Holy Spirit, purifying my soul, destroying what God did not place in my heart when He created me, on my path back home to the Catholic Church, and in time, into His arms.
Another detail; the marks in the walls. After mass, I looked closer at them. I was overtaken by the thought of the scourging of Jesus. Then I thought again, maybe their just best left in the walls, placed there from all the sins we have committed. Like scars, left in the physical temple as we enter into holy mass to purify the spiritual temple. Either way, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will not allow myself to become “To Big” to lose that peace, joy and wonderment again. Every time I return there, I am that small child again at Christmas, but now small enough to enter into the “Ark.”