Aloha Friday Message – January 25, 2008

A happy and blessed Aloha Friday to YOU!!

Maria Lanakila Catholic Church
(Hawaiian for “Our Lady of Victory”)
Lahaina, Maui

This is the Church
And this is the Steeple.
Open the doors
And see all the people.
Now they sing
And now they pray
And now they stand
And all go away.

Do you remember doing that nursery rhyme when you were a toddler? I can remember doing it over and over with my mom, and later on with my siblings when I was older and they we just toddlers (no pun intended there – Todd-lers).

Last Sunday I was reminded of steeples. I have a wonderful friend who collects pictures of steeples. When we think of steeples, we pretty much always think of churches, or rather church buildings. A church building with a steeple is easy to recognize. There aren’t many other kinds of buildings that have steeples. In fact, to be honest, I can’t think only one other kind of building with a steeple that isn’t a church: Occasionally they will be on a library. There are buildings with spires and minarets, but steeples and churches – done deal like mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, hamburger and fries, Chick and Crucita. All “made for each other.”

What’s on top of the steeple varies, to be sure, but the steeple itself pretty much says, “This is a place for spiritual happenings.” A church without a steeple is still a church, but the more modern and “new-fangled” a church is, the less likely it is to be perceived as a church (building). So what is it that steeples do any way?

Well, as I said, they adorn the roof or maybe the front of a building used for a church, a building for spiritual meetings. The shape of the steeple gives the suggestion of hands in a prayerful pose, fingers upward, in supplication or praise to God. Steeples point to where we usually think of God’s quarter – Heaven. Steeples are often the highest structure in the neighborhood. They make a good reference point for miles around because you can see them above the rest of the community. They help us find and give directions

In Merry Olde England (and in lots of places other that that) there were horse races called steeple chases. The main reference point was the church steeple and the course was laid out so that the steeple was the common reference. There were all sorts of obstacles either set up or already there along the course, so a steeple chase eventually represented a difficult path to endure, and the winner was usually the one who negotiated the obstacles best.

So, let’s see, steeples made a building look like a church, they make it easier for people to find themselves spiritually AND geographically, they go together and seem like natural partners, they remind us of praying and of heaven, and they are easily recognized because a steeple is … shaped like a steeple. We all know what they look like.

Sunday it dawned on me that there are steeple people. This kind of person is a place for spiritual happenings. Their faith is their steeple, and it is easy to spot from afar. The steeple people become good reference points spiritually as well as for the geography of our daily living. We know where to turn when we can spot them in the community, and the course of our life – however many obstacles there are – is more easily run when we keep them in sight as a reference.

Steeple people are built to stand out, but they come in the most humble forms – they come as servants. Just as some steeples have bells or chimes or carillons, some steeple people have a music that draws us to them. They carry the light so as to be a reference in the darkness. The inspire us to pray and draw our eyes and our thought heavenward. Steeple people show up in lots of places and in many variations. Not everyone can be steeple people, but there are a lot more of them around than you might think. Sometimes we overlook people’s steeples, but when we need a place of spiritual haven, a little heaven on Earth, we almost instinctively look for the steeples.

I have known a lot of steeple people over my lifetime. I didn’t always KNOW they were steeple people, but I did know they were special. All of us know ABOUT some steeple people like Mother Theresa, Helen Keller, John Paul II are big steeple people. LOTS of people see their faith because they are famous, and lots of people see their fame because they are faithful. I have known some virtuous women and valorous men in my lifetime. They are steeple people, too. My dad was valorous and virtuous. That is how I know and remember him. Others possibly remember him differently. I know he had his flaws, but to me he was a remarkable man, an exemplary Christian, and a wonderful Dad.

And that seeming dichotomy points out something we don’t always see or know about in steeples. They have their flaws. Since they are usually so “far up there” it’s sometimes hard to see what is not readily apparent. Church steeples like this one doubtless have cobwebs (and therefore spiders), maybe even termites, dust and dirt and maybe even mold, chipped paint, bent nails, and other imperfections. We don’t pay much attention to those. In fact, we barely pay attention to steeples unless we are fascinated by them. You know, I think the same thing happens with steeple people. We know they have flaws, but they’re way up there out of sight, out of out day-to-day concerns. We look to them for a quick reference once in a while, or maybe hear some news report or historical reference, and then we stop thinking about them.

Once in a while, we ought to take a close look at steeples and at steeple people as well. Not just a look to see where we are in relation to them, but how they are put together, holding up in the weather, and whether or not they need a little help. You know, steeples are a great target for lightening, and so are steeple people. And since they are sort of out of the way, it takes more effort to do routine maintenance. Same thing goes for steeple people. Now, it’s pretty hard to let a church steeple know the level of admiration you have, but it might be less complicated if you wanted to say something nice to one of the steeple people you know. Next time you think “I wish s/he could know how much they mean to me,” look for a way to get that message to them.

Here’s another though. Pretty much NO ONE builds just a steeple. Steeples usually come with a building that supports them, surrounds them and completes them.

Finally, Beloved, Remember what steeples do best: They point beyond themselves to something larger and infinitely larger more complex than the steeple itself. After you look at the steeple, look where it’s point in realize you are part of the infinitely larger and more complex reality pointed out to you by your friendly neighborhood steeple. Someone built it just for you.

So, how is construction of the steeple of your own life going? In the temple of your heart, is there room for all the people to sing, to pray, to stand, and to go out to serve?

This is the Church
And this is the Steeple.
Open the doors
And see all the people.
Now they sing
And now they pray
And serve God and others
Day after day.

Make it a great day!

Aloha pumehana, Beloved.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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