Mandarin: Loretto Road Rectory

by Tim Gilmore, 6/21/2012

The little wooden church was built in 1859 and taken down in 1891, the year of the new church, and wood from the original church was used in building the rectory that same year.

The timbers were hard timbers. “Things,” as the poem by Kay Ryan says, “shouldn’t be so hard.” She writes that “A life should leave / deep tracks” and “ruts” and “worn-out place[s],” because “The passage / of a life should show; / it should abrade.” And the stopping of a life should leave a scar.

Father Henry wrestled against flesh and blood, as well as struggling against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Father Henry wrestled also against his own flesh and his own blood.

The struggle against flesh and blood should have worn into the timbers. The fights against principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness should have warped the floorboards and the roof beams and the wood in the walls. Where now is Father Henry? Where now is Father Henry’s depression and joy and conquest and fear of the devil and his devils? Where now, if not in the deep tracks and abrasions in the interior walls and the frame of the rectory is Father Henry’s lust and Father Henry’s faith?

Where now is the place that God touched Father Henry?

Timbers and things are so hard. They are harder than flesh and blood.

In the early 1990s, they splintered the rectory and broke it to the ground. Demolition machinery makes marks much more visible than human suffering. Rectories aren’t as hard as bulldozers. Hearts and stomachs, however, are soft, and brains are gelatinous, and minds are not even as hard as the air that soft lungs breathe.

Father Henry often prayed that things shouldn’t be so hard, but then he felt ashamed, as though he had questioned the will of God that things should be so hard, that things should be so hard. But where now is Father Henry’s faith, and where now is Father Henry, and where now even is the timber of the rectory, if not dispersed into the darkness and the light of this earth?