Tag Archives: religion

St. Mary’s Church

St. Mary’s Church is only a short stroll away from our flat and I believe it was the first real “Ooh, what’s that?!” moment I had upon arrival in Mildenhall. Something about the structure just drew me in immediately and begged to be explored. Look at that architecture! Things just aren’t built like that anymore.

It was my first day out wandering around on my own, trying not to get horrifically lost–which I’m famous for–and St. Mary’s called to me. It’s strange how even walking around on the grounds makes you feel different, because as soon as I stepped on the the verdant lawn, it’s as if there were a hush in the air.  You could still easily hear cars and people on cell phones going by, but all of that is somehow dwarfed by the immensity of this church.  

I spent quite a while treading lightly through the graveyard. I wanted to be respectful of the medieval human remains there, but I was also very curious to read all the tombstones. Most were so old they were hardly legible, and the “new ones” still dated back to the mid-1800’s. My favorite was dedicated to John Sterling who died in 1857  at the age of 57. (To put this into American perspective, he was born in 1800 and died around the Civil War period). His tombstone added that five of his children lay nearby, having died in their infancy and also offered:

“Weep not for me, my wife and children dear,

I am not dead, but sleeping here.

My debt is paid, my grave you see,

Prepare yourselves to follow me.”

Huh. Hopefully not anytime soon, Mr. Sterling…

The grounds were alive with wildflowers and bees. Daisies, poppies, dandelions, and beautiful purple flowers that I have no name for. (For those of you that aren’t aware, I’ve been a beekeeper since January and *sniff* had to leave my queen and her daughters in the care of my friends until I return. So, seeing a bee this far from home automatically warms me to the area.)

I will confess that I was a bit nervous about entering the church because I didn’t know what I would find in there. Not to mention, I was wearing shorts and Converse and I’ve been raised Catholic enough to know that it isn’t appropriate church attire–especially in a church that was built in part from the 1100’s to the 1800’s.  Sheesh. No need for gnarly medieval plagues or curses to befall my unwary American head!

To get in, I had to push open a door that had to be 15ft high and looked as though it hadn’t been replaced…ever. It was so cool. I felt like I was entering a dungeon in a video game. This is the first view through that door. 

Absolutely enormous.

Like, huge.

But the BEST part was that the whole thing smelled like one giant old book. You know, that musky-yet-sweet smell you can only find whilst burying your nose in the crease of a long-forgotten novel. Yum. This place was like where books go to perfume themselves after a long life.

The stained glass was by far the biggest and most ornate that I’ve ever seen. There were a handful of them scattered throughout.  They were glorious, especially with the afternoon light filtering through. It felt almost divine. Especially when the three other people who were in there left via colossal door, and I was all alone in this standing piece of history, religion, and art. I’m not, nor ever have been, a very religious person, but this place made me instinctively breathe quietly or step lightly. I can’t claim to have felt some sort of presence there, but I’d say it was more like the church itself was the presence. 

The ceiling was my other favorite. It was covered in angels. I can’t begin to estimate how tall it was, but it was tall enough to crane your neck to the very limits of its hinge. The angels were so amazing, with gargantuan wingspans that would probably be life-sized were they on the floor. What totally boggled my mind was that this church is so incredibly old, yet so incredibly well-crafted–not just for functionality–but also for aesthetic purposes.

And it was all done by hand.

 

I was actually inspired to sit for a few moments and thank God, Jesus, the Powers That Be, whichever–for the charmed life I have led thus far. I’ve been SO lucky with the direction my life has gone and is still going… Perpetual forward motion. The strength and courage of conviction that I never knew I had. To change my life in an instant and not look back. That’s what I’m thankful for.

When people pray, it seems as though it’s always asking for something and not thanking the Divinity for what has been already offered to them. I didn’t ask for anything for my own behalf, only the happiness and health of my family and friends. I did get a little misty-eyed, I will admit. 

I can’t describe the feeling I had inside St. Mary’s other than to note that it is one of those rare places were time stands still. It’s hard to believe that just outside these ancient walls cars speed by, digital cameras click, and text messages ping through the air. To stop and think about how much life and death, love and grief, happiness and anguish that has passed through this place is unfathomable. What has been before us, will be there long after us.

On my way out of the church and off the grounds, I was stepping through the graves and directly in front of me, a pure white feather was spiralling to the ground. For once, there wasn’t a bird in sight.

So I kept it.

 

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St. Michael’s Scales by Neil O. Connelly

St. Michael’s Scales was a very strange piece of fiction.

The protagonist Keegan Flannery was born one-half of a set of twins. The other–his brother–Michael, died at birth. After his mother is committed to a mental hospital and his older brother runs away from home, Keegan is left with two brothers who ignore him and a father who doesn’t remember he exists. The only attention he gets at school is negative because of his extremely small stature. When he realizes that his father has been telling people his mother is dead rather than face the embarrassment of owning up to the facts–Keegan begins having dreams of his dead twin. All at once, he knows how to right the wrong done to his family.

He must kill himself before his 16th birthday.

But when a fluke absence allows him a spot as a featherweight on his high school’s wrestling team, things begin to change. Not only is he dreaming of his brother Michael, now he is beginning to hallucinate fighting with him. He knows that Michael was the brother that should have lived, and the thought haunts him every day.

Being raised Catholic, knowing that suicide is a mortal sin…will Keegan go through with his plan to kill himself, or has wrestling given him something to live for?

SMS was a very weird novel. It reminded me of A Prayer for Owen Meany, not only because of the religious aspects but also because Keegan and Owen both fit the same physical description. They also both had a mission they were planning on carrying out, and both knew that it would lead to their untimely demise.

I never truly felt attached to Keegan, and while I felt sympathy for his family situation, I didn’t understand why or how he thought his suicide would rectify the tribulations his family had gone through. Also, with a history of mental illness in his family, he should’ve begun to realize that he wasn’t in his right mind when he began to see visions of his brother. Rather than him viewing his dead twin as some sort of spiritual guardian, he viewed him as a malevolent force to be reckoned with.

All the blame for those feelings should be placed solely on his parents shoulders, especially his father’s for ignoring him.  AND not only did his mother always get a dually-named cake–she also would force Keegan to pick out one of his presents and bring in to the cemetery each year on his birthday. It’s understandable to want to remember a dead child and keep him a part of the family, but not to the detriment of the living children. No wonder Keegan felt he played second fiddle.

I wasn’t a fan of this book, and I would not recommend it.

2 wrong-hearted Jesus of 5


Quote of the Day: Lynne Kelly

“Some believers accuse skeptics of having nothing left but a dull, cold, scientific world. I am left with only art, music, literature, theatre, the magnificence of nature, mathematics, the human spirit, sex, the cosmos, friendship, history, science, imagination, dreams, oceans, mountains, love, and the wonder of birth.
That’ll do for me.”

-Lynne Kelly


Quote of the Day: Marcus Aurelius

‎”Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but you will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

-Marcus Aurelius


The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo

BAM! I’ve been able to squeeze in a decent amount of reading time lately, and although I have an extensive reading list because I stumble across so many interesting things at work, I fished this little baby off of the $2 cart and couldn’t resist. The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo details  female scientist Gabrielle Segovia’s journey into the forbidden world of the Santeria religion. Mystical. Magical. Ooooh. Voodoo. Animal sacrifices. Eww… 

I DON’T PRACTICE SANTERIA, I AIN’T GOT NO CRYSTAL BALL…. Ok, ok, I’m done joking now. (And please, you know you thought it too.)

The main thread in the book was that Dr. Segovia desperately wanted children, but had been unable to conceive with her husband Benito for years. She kept experiencing miscarriages, as well as phantom hand movement and vivid dreams during the night. One conference trip to New Orleans with her best friend, and margarita-fueled near indiscretion with a sexy Spaniard causes her to realize her life isn’t going exactly as planned. Enter, la botanica (or grocery store for herbs/potions/and sacrificial animals). One spontaneous venture into the magic shop and BOOM! Enter Santeria by way of her long lost family.

I will say, I was really surprised by this book. I’m am a book snob in a lot of ways, and it is common for me to turn up my nose at a book simply because it’s in a sale bin. It can’t be good if it’s a bargain, right? Wrong.

The Accidental Santera thoroughly engrossed me, from beginning to end. It was fascinating to learn about such a taboo religion from the eyes of a logical, modern female. (Ok, and I had a bit of twisted interest in the whole animal sacrifice thing. What the heck’s that all about?) It was cool to read about her journey from beginning to end, and I will say that I eventually ended up admiring Gabrielle’s connectivity with her new-found religion. I envy her in having something strong and spiritual to believe in. I also liked the way the religion honored the feminine aspect of the divine. The story was kept moving by not only Gabrielle’s inner turmoil, but as well as the fact that each of the supporting characters were interesting in their own right.

I will say that in my infinite blondeness, I went through the whole book believing that the author was writing directly about her own life story. Not so. This book is loosely based on her own experiences I’m sure, since Lazo is a scientist as well as a practicing santera, but Dr. Segovia is a made up character. Imagine my disappointment.

 The only other thing that was a bit off was that, although I realize the book is about a      Hispanic woman, there was a decent amount of Spanish sprinkled in for the average        American reader. Lazo does a good job explaining it, but I will say that during some       conversations if I hadn’t taken Spanish in college, I would’ve had no idea what they         were talking about…

But all in all, I would definitely recommend The Accidental Santera for a quick read.

4 of 5 stars


(Alter to Yemaya, Goddess of the Sea and Motherhood)