Cleaning Up Memory

Le Bon Caffe (2nd St SE off Penn.)
Le Bon Caffe (2nd St SE off Penn.)

This morning I had a breakfast at a lovely spot just around the corner from our parish church, Le Bon Cafe.  It was a beautiful sunny morning.  Vintage posters ornamented the walls of my local eatery.   The coffee was hot and aromatic and the French toast was… well, a revelation!  Seriously, I may fast the rest of the day just to keep remembering this French toast.  All told the experience really took me back to a wonderful Christmas break I once enjoyed in Paris.  It also reminded me how blessed we are here in DC.   I’m going to connect this experience to another this week: cleaning the Church sacristy.

French Toast... of course in France it's just "toast"
French Toast… of course in France it’s just “toast”

The connection may not be immediately obvious, but it’s this: Memory.  Le Bon Cafe made alive once more the experience of my time in France.  The sacristy is another place full of memory… not my own, but my parish’s.  Over the last few weeks I’ve spent a little time each day carefully combing through our supplies, cataloging what tools we have to work with, and sending out damaged items for repair.  I’ve also put a lot of elbow grease into wiping down surfaces, disinfecting storage spaces and sometimes, literally, SCRAPING the accumulated dust of years off items.  I came to one pile of items way in the back of a creaky cupboard.  It was a collection of stones.  Two were altar stones from an old sanctuary… possibly the original church that stood here in the early 1800’s.  The rest were samples of marbles used in the current Church.  Looking at the grime coating the stones one of the parish staff said, “Father it looks like no one even remembers these exist.”

It seems that even a place full of memories needs frequent re-visiting if those memories are to stay vivid… that is (literally) “full of life.”  with lots of soap and scrubbing I managed to restore the gleam of these stones.  While working on them I thought of the parishioners who probably argued over color choices… the priests who had to make a final call… and the hard working artisans who installed them to the use of the Church and the glory of God.  They were alive again, if only for a few minutes in our parish church.

St. John Paul II spoke much about memory.  Some memories re revisit because they are so wonderful… The memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, the mass  (for example).  St. John Paul also spoke about the cleansing of memory.  Revisiting painful episodes from the Church’s past he begged the mercy of God and set up a better basis for moving on toward our final judgment.  What memories do each of us need to revisit?   Whether they are memories filled with gratitude or ones that need to be filled with healing grace, the journey is worthwhile.   Just a thought: look at memories with eyes of faith this week.  Peace!