One of the Best Signs at Church

Stained glass window depicting Saint Luke

Not too long ago, I was late for Mass.  While this isn’t unusual, on this day, for some reason, the parking lot was exceptionally full.  Consequently, the car was installed in an area different from where it is normally; and entry was made through the main doors, instead of one of the side doors. The main entrance consists of a set of double doors flanked on each side with stained glass windows three feet wide and six feet tall.  Many likely have wondered at both the beauty and innocence in play here. These stained glass windows are unprotected on the outside by either metal screens, thick plastic, or tempered glass as is normally the case.  Hence, an errant baseball from the parking lot could easily make its entrance into the church through one of these works of art. On the other hand, this uninhibited exterior lets these stained glass windows brightly radiate outward early in the morning by virtue of the architecture and alignment of the vestibule they terminate.  During the day, and especially in the evening, these windows cast their bright colors on the carpet and walls inside this area illuminating it in airy and slow moving ways. The Mass had begun.  We confessed our faults.  We made our way through the liturgy of the Word. After the departure of Father Kenn a couple of years ago, we had been assigned two priests from Africa whose accents were so thick that it is a struggle to understand their speech.  Nevertheless, several things are clear: These priests are exceptionally intelligent and enthusiastic about their ministry.  They work hard.  They are both greatly infused with the Holy Spirit; and their behavior seemingly conforms closely to the message left of us by Jesus in the New Testament. Be that as it may, since their arrival, I had been less enthusiastic about going to church.  This was my failing, not theirs. Thus, as the sermon started, other thoughts penetrated; and, as usual, I started drifting away, only half hearing what Father Robert was saying. “Some of you may have noticed that one of our stained glass windows was broken.  A poor boy came into our church through the window last night and was caught by the police.  Let us all keep him in our prayers.  He might not have had the best of intentions; but he deserves our wishes for his rapid recovery.” What?  Did I miss something?  What was Father Robert talking about?  A stained glass window was broken?  It could only be one of the ones near the main doors.  All of the others were too narrow, or too high, for human access.  Why hadn’t I noticed anything as I came in? Suddenly, the Mass could not end soon enough.  Why hadn’t Father Robert asked for extra donations to replace what was beautiful, and therefore expensive?  The liturgy of the Eucharist seemed to take forever. When the Mass ended, I purposely waited to fall in behind the crowd that seemed unconcerned about the window.  I wanted some time alone and unhurried with the scene of the crime.  It all seemed surreal, as if I had only dreamed what Father Robert had said. When the vestibule was gained, sure enough, it was noticeably darker, a fact unnoticed upon entry.  A plywood sheet covered the aperture where the stained glass window had been, confirming, to some degree, a connection to reality.  The plywood had been neatly cut to fit the frame.  It had been neatly installed. Father Robert stood in his normal place, next to this window, shaking hands with those who exited through the main doors, but not talking about the window or the events associated with its breakage.  There was no glass on the floor. All had been meticulously cleaned.  All shards had been removed from the frame.  This must have taken much time in the middle of the night. There was no collection plate, or box, appealing for extra funds. In an absent-minded way, I shook Father Robert’s hand and greeted him. However, my attention was elsewhere, specifically, behind him.  The main doors were open for passage.  I was forced out. Outside, reality still seemed remote.  An urge to confirm it presented itself a few steps down the broad concrete walkway.  I turned back to look.  Departing parishoners swerved to walk around me. Sure enough, there was the neatly cut plywood covering the place where that window had been.  The window was gone because some boy, possibly on drugs, had thought that there was something on the other side worth stealing and fencing to fund his next high. However, in the middle of the plywood, neatly stapled to it, was a sheet of copy paper.  Its message was smartly printed in large black font, seemingly just composed in Word and just produced from the computer printer.  It was immediately the sole object of the universe for me.  I could not squint my myopic eyes fast enough to read its message:

A GOOD TIME TO FORGIVE

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