Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Cathedral Built by Gold

Katrina is weighing heavily on my mind. I have been in Helena, Montana for about a week and watched hurricane coverage on the days the temperature soared to the mid-nineties with hot blowing forest fire smoke. For this Puget Sounder, being inside was more comfortable. I keep trying to imagine if my house was flooded and destroyed. Sure, if we had had an evacuation order, we would have loaded up our mini-van with our dog, camping gear, money and credit cards and headed out to find a motel somewhere a distance away. But what if we didn't have a car? Or a car with enough gas to sit in traffic? Or money to find a hotel room? What if leaving was simply impossible because of a disabled family member or a new baby? What if we could not have left? What if we lost everything? What if we had not all survived? What if our Apolo puppy was washed away? What if I did not know about all of my family? What if we had been rescued from our roof top and dropped on I-5 with no where else to go--no water, no food and only the clothes on our backs? I saw the footage of looters--the women were taking diapers! Somehow, that seems forgivable. My mind will not allow me to imagine this scenario so I can only pray for all of the people along the gulf coast and particularly those in New Orleans who did not have much to begin with.

So this morning my mind is in New Orleans and in Helena at the same time; I haven't grasped Mukilteo yet though I see fishing boats out there on the clean blue peaceful water--unlike the boats I see on TV. I come back to find comments on my entry below about how Brother Roger had received communion at Pope John Paul's funeral from now Pope Benedict. And at Brother Roger's funeral Roman Catholics and non-Roman Catholics alike received communion. This is so unbelievable because we as Anglicans are not allowed to receive communion in the Roman Catholic church but this makes me feel such hope. In my St. Hilda St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, we encourage all to receive communion. Somehow we think Jesus would not have asked his followers at the Last Supper which denomination they preferred or whether they supported one or another of Caesar's policies before the sharing of bread and wine. We are all so connected with one another through one loving God. Why is it that only in times of deep sorrow we realize this? My digital camera is filled with photos of beautiful Helena, Montana but given the events of the past few days, I will begin with the "Cathedral Built by Gold".

Montana has a significant Roman Catholic population. I am not certain why except that many immigrants were Irish, Italian, and Eastern European at the turn of the century. I have written before that Helena, because of gold, had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the nation at the turn of the century. As a result, Helena, this relatively small city of 30,000 people, has as its centerpiece a European style cathedral which is Roman Catholic. St. Helena Cathedral was built between 1908 and 1914 from donations by Thomas Cruse who earned his riches from his gold mine just outside of the town. And yes, though I am an Episcopalian, I have been to St. Helena's for weddings and a funeral.....and at the funeral of my brother in law who died tragically prematurely of a brain tumor five years ago, with the blessings and at the request of my Roman Catholic relatives, my husband and I boldly received communion.

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St. Helena Cathedral

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Helena's centerpiece from the slopes of Mount Helena (with forest fire haze)