Christmas Eve and The Little Cathedral in the Pines…
Christmas Eve, 1972, I made my First Holy Communion at Sacred Heart Church in Bushwood, MD. Forty years later – to the day – I find myself sitting in the same pew with my parents and sisters. The only one from my family missing was my brother, who now lives in West Virginia.
It was hard to sit there without old childhood memories flooding in – the manger set in the front of the church the same as in 1972. The baby Jesus, the same one I had carried to the front of the church that night, and placed in the manger, me wearing my First Communion dress. Glancing to the ceiling, I see the same old speakers up high – the lights hanging from the ceiling are different, yet they are still just as bright. I remember how blinding those old lights used to be, and I suddenly figure out why that was all I saw then – I was little, I couldn’t see over the pew – looking up was the only option vs. starring ahead and just seeing the pew. I was never allowed to sit in Mom’s lap, which would have put me at a higher viewpoint. We all sat straight in a row, never moving for fear of a look from daddy or a pinch to the leg from mom. And you didn’t dare make a sound if you did get “the pinch.” As I sat there between my two sisters, who were being mischievous, I was thankful I was not the one sitting next to mom, just in case.
The stained glass windows are magnificent at Sacred Heart. We always sat in the pew next to the one that bears my grandparents names. As I sat and watched person after person come in – I recognized most of them. It’s been a while since I have seen them – their faces weathered more than I remember, as time has certainly passed. I’m sure they could say the same about me.
After mass, I went upstairs, to the choir. The church was so pretty, I wanted to be able to capture it, for I know, as time goes by, the decorations will change, and perhaps – it will no longer look as I remember it. As a child I spent many Sundays in this choir singing. I’m not sure when my participation stopped, but it did. I waited for the alter and the isles to clear, and started firing off a few shots hoping there would be enough time to capture everything before the lights were dimmed. There was to be one more mass at Midnight, but considering it was only 5:30pm, I was certain they would turn the lights off until then. I was fortunate to get these shots.
Upon leaving the choir, there at the bottom of the steps was the “Children’s Tree” just as it has been for years and years. Large candy canes now replace the once smaller ones. Each child is encouraged to take a candy cane when leaving mass.
Sacred Heart Church in Bushwood, MD… Where I was Baptized, made my First Communion, Confirmed, Married and Baptized both of my children. It’s a place I return to at least once a year, Christmas Eve mass with mom and dad. I feel blessed to be able to do just that.