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Almost Perfect (standard:non fiction, 1334 words)
Author: J. NicklausAdded: Nov 10 2003Views/Reads: 1824/1133Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
There but for the grace of God go I...
 



Quiet sanctity. 

The wood of the dais under the pew creaked when I knelt and when I
genuflected. Warm darkness punctuated only by the flicker of electric 
candles and the whitewash of small lights well above the first pew. The 
ceiling of St. Mary's on 5th and H floated nearly five stories above 
the church floor; vaulted and supported by beautiful faux-marble 
columns. She was quiet this Sunday morning, yet hid something from 
me--something she wanted me to know, for a reason I'm not sure I yet 
understand or fathom. 

I sat back in the pew, relishing the antiquity and beauty of this small
church. Places like this are few and far between where I'm from. San 
Xavier Del Bac outside Tucson comes to mind as the closest of kin, and 
even then she's a completely different style of church. This one, not 
far from the nation's capitol, didn't demand respect, and yet she draws 
it from you within moments of entering through her big wooden doors 
into the vestibule. 

The minutes passed without anyone else entering the church. I knew I was
early, but this seemed a little bizarre. Rather than quell my curiosity 
I chose to sit in solace and absorb the atmosphere. 

For the first fifteen minutes or so a pipe organ played, giving the
otherwise hushed church an almost eerie quality. The music didn't stop 
abruptly, rather echoed to a fade. Still no Sunday morning worshippers 
entered. My clock was fast, that had to be the answer. No big deal, 
sitting in this place was reverential and allowed me to reflect and 
talk to God in my own way. 

"Excuse me, sir--" An unexpected voice from the rear of the church. I
turned around to see if it was meant for someone else. 

"Could you hold this ladder steady for me?" 

Again the wood creaked under my step as I exited the pew, still
enveloped in relative darkness. 

"Sure," I replied. 

"Thanks. This clock is a little high up and I don't want to risk having
someone come through the door and knock it over while I'm on the 
highest step." An unremarkable clock hung above the entrance to the 
church proper from the vestibule. "Everyone will show up twenty minutes 
late for mass today because they forgot to set their clocks back." That 
explained my lengthy solitude; more likely a factor of Divine 
serendipity than random circumstance that I should be so early on this 
particular morning. This gentleman apparently worked around the church, 
so he likely knew something of its history. 

"How much of this church is original." I asked as he climbed down the
ladder. 

Don smiled. "I really wish you hadn't asked that." Nice move, Nicklaus.
"I tend to get carried away when I talk about it, but we have some time 
before Mass starts." 

The next forty-five minutes were spent immersed in the lore and history
of this little church in Washington DC's Chinatown. He spoke of its 
humble beginning as a tiny church, the block walls of which still can 
be seen in the basement. The current incarnation of the church was 
built partly with the rubble from the old one. He told of priests long 
since gone--one who had the small crosses above the Stations of the 
Cross taken down, which Don subsequently put back up upon that priests 
departure; another who was so disliked by staff and some parishioners 
that one was overheard saying "the only thing he's ever picked up were 
a fork and a roll of toilet paper." That priest departed, 
involuntarily, leaving the small church $130,000 in debt. Don hadn't 
been paid for almost two years for the work he'd done restoring St. 
Mary's beautiful pipe organ. He'd since become something of the parish 
caretaker and was given permission to play the instrument whenever he 
liked. Now he's the church's musical director. 

He spoke of two statues on either side of the altar, standing angels
practically towering over the altar and those who stood before it. Don 


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