By Jim Schroeder
Little Louis continued to whimper and cry, only to settle briefly as I stared out the panoramic windows into the countryside below. The homily continued. His eyes, with a great force of will, began to open ever so slightly, and once again that feeble, hungry cry sprung from his mouth. Two weeks to the day after his birth, we had come to celebrate his first Mass in the little town bearing the name of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church. The monsoon that day had briefly settled into a grey, flowing curtain four days before Christ would be born again. This December had been wetter than most. Just as the snow and ice had melted away, the cold rain seemed to grab hold of the shortened days.
But inside Advent had reached its final few days, and this church upon a hill, with its brownish sandstone façade and green, tarnished copper steeple, was full this day. Matthew proclaimed, “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us. In this time of great uncertainty, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and assured him that his betrothed was conceived of the Holy Spirit. He was to remain with her.
Louis began to wail, his tiny, helpless body calling out for food only to be temporarily soothed as I swayed him back and forth. Communion was very near when the swap could occur. Suddenly, I found myself in the back of St. Francis Xavier Church in Vincennes, where this historical journey had begun almost two years before. With the loquacious Noah in my arms, we had left the pews to explore the stained glass windows in the northwest corner of the basilica as William Charles slept peacefully in his seat just four weeks after he was born.
Louis began to cry again. I walked through the doors into the nave of the church as Amy carried Will into the middle aisle. Our oldest four, arms folded, walked forward and bowed haphazardly. As I followed Amy to the pew, I handed her Louis and received Will. Amy smiled sheepishly and asked if I wanted her to take Will back, too. I declined, only to look over and see Noah making hand gestures with a missalette that had come to life only to narrowly miss the woman kneeling behind. Will squirmed in my arms and threatened to scream until I pointed out the doggie that had mysteriously vanished outside the window. The row was crowded with kids — our kids — sitting, kneeling, slouching, all in an unbroken line to two books that suddenly caught my eye. I looked again, but the inexplicable print remained on the top of their pages:
Sacred Heart Catholic Church/2701 W. Franklin St./Evansville, IN 47712
Over 13 years before, on a blazing hot day in Sacred Heart, I watched in awe as she strode down the aisle in shimmering white, the same shimmering white that covered her 22 years before as she was received into the Church through baptism at this very place. In this far corner of the diocese, we had come. He was coming. What a thirteen years it had been. What a two years it had been. 2013 slipped away into the pouring, penetrating darkness as we made our way home. 2014 teetered in the horizon, yet unknown. We were on the trail of the immortal souls.
This reflection is from Jim Schroeder’s book “The Evansville Diocese Historical Tour: Footprints of Our Catholic Brethren.” Jim, his wife, Amy, and their 8 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.