“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Isaiah 9:1).
We turned off the main highway and quickly veered left on the old county road. Blackness settled in. Just minutes before, we had left the restaurant overlooking the timeless Ohio River in historic downtown Newburgh. As the third year of our diocese tour settled in, the revelry of the night began as our kids made their way freely around the reserved room. Joined by those of church visits past and by new visitors to the tour, the relatively mild temperatures of an Arctic winter lapped at our back as we headed upstream. The lights from the lock and dam reflected against the river below.
But as we made our way northerly along that county road, and rollercoastered over the hills and through the hollows, a tiny, almost imperceptible light shown ahead. As we got closer, the light grew more radiant even though the darkened landscape lay yet unrevealed. Slowly, though, a steeple emerged, supported by the façade that had been there for over 110 years. By the time we had reached Red Brush Road, our headlights illuminated the front doors of our destination.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation” (Psalm 27:1).
We opened the doors amid the sounds of the rosary reverberating against the rose-colored walls that encased the church. As we noisily settled into the pews, we could not help but notice the painting of Jesus over the altar illuminated by the brilliant sun behind him. His hair bolted wildly from his head, reportedly a revision done when a group of youth assisted in repainting. His arms outspread to the congregation below. Father Lowell Will paused for a moment, and then beckoned those in the pews to sing unaided as the week for Christian unity quickly came to a close. Slowly and unevenly, the untrained voices began to rise and fall…
“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, and we pray that all unity may one day be restored. For they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love….”
Darkness enveloped this little church in the brush. The woman in front of us had remarked at the beginning that our visit had brought more excitement than they had a long time, but that many feared dark days for the parish lay ahead.
“…that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen” (Matthew 4:14-16).
Inside, though, Father Will began his homily by explaining the many ways in which the light of Christ could be found not only in our souls, but also in our minds. He challenged us that night to consider whether we really found solace and joy in that light even as our world often brought hardships upon us. Briefly, he pondered, “Does the light of Christ truly enlighten our faith?” These words hung in the air. Back into that blind country road, we went.
“I am the light of the world, says the Lord, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
This reflection is from Jim Schroeder’s book “The Evansville Diocese Historical Tour: Footprints of Our Catholic Brethren.” Jim, his wife, Amy, and their kids live in Evansville. They are parishioners at Holy Redeemer Parish. Jim is a pediatric psychologist and Vice President of the psychology department at Easterseals Rehabilitation Center. “The full story, including illustrations, is available on Amazon or with his other books and articles at www.james-schroeder.com.”