A living sanctuary

As we stepped out of the main house I looked upward. We could not have requested a more perfect day for outdoor mass. Just a smattering of clouds in the sky. It was plenty warm in the sun. Sitting under the shade of the forest would be welcome, I was sure.

Crumpled joy

We silently walked down the main road toward the beach. Cars were now parked along the side of the road. I noticed the wheels of one of the cars was sitting on top of a bed of Nasturtiums. All five of us were watching as more cars pulled onto the camp grounds. We heard the sounds of a motor and observed as a family of four in a motorboat slowly pulled into the L dock and began to disembark. Our cocoon was being invaded. It felt like a violation. I prickled.

Lydia and Shawn greeted us when we arrived at the beach. The sand had been raked beautifully. It resembled a Japanese Zen garden. The prickly feelings began to ebb. I almost didn’t want to walk on it. All five of us looked at it with astonishment.


“It’s beauuuuuutiful!” My son whispered with awe.

“Welcome to Visitor’s Day Mass!” Shawn said, breaking the brief moment of tranquility. He looked at me crossed eyed with a strained smile on his face as he offered each of us a sheet with hymns photocopied onto both sides. “So happy that you could join us.” Shawn continued in robotic fashion.

“Ummm…you don’t seem genuinely happy, Shawn.” I whispered as I took the song sheet.

“Oh no! Don’t be silly. I love to greet all of our visitors. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go and start preparing burgers and dogs and all the fixins for two hundred people.” Shawn roughly pushed the song sheets into Lydia’s hands, turned and started up the road to the kitchen.

“And that is the last of the great outdoors for Shawn today.” Lydia sighed as she watched him go. “It will be a super busy day for him.” Lydia brightened as parents approached her. “Welcome to Visitor’s Day Mass!”

My little family moved towards ‘the church’ nestled in the forest. Just alongside the sandy beach was a worn wooden lectern, and an altar adorned with a simple burlap cloth, a candle, a wooden crucifix, a bible and a pine tree branch in a small vase. Parents, grandparents and small children, chatting in low tones, were seated on the weathered benches which served as pews. Scattered about were cut tree stump ‘chairs’. Some just sat on the ground with their backs leaned up against the trunks of the surrounding trees. My little family quietly found four wood stump seats to sit upon, close to the edge of the beach. My son sat on my knee.

The spareness and simplicity of this little church was immensely powerful. Gone were the embellishments of our fancy city cathedral. Our walls were made of living bark. Our ceiling vault was provided by the arches of the branches of the oak, maple and birch trees. The mid morning sun peeked through the ‘windows’. The floor was the uneven canvas of roots, humus, grass, dirt, and sand. We giggled when a squirrel noisily scrambled down a tree and ran off into the woods. I took a deep breath as I absorbed it all. In the background were the sounds of happy voices, the wind gently rustling the tree branches, the water lapping at the edge of the beach.

This seemed to me a beautiful reflection of camp. Back to the basics. Appreciate the outdoors. God’s creation. This was awesome. This was a living sanctuary.

I looked at Himself. He looked back at me.

“This is….lovely.” I said with an enormous smile as I searched for the right word. I felt as though ‘lovely’ really didn’t capture it though.

“Divine,” Himself added with a nod.

That was perfect. It WAS divine.

So far I really liked visitors day.





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