Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

Cathedral in the Pines


IMG_4424My Catholic roots are woven throughout the memories of my childhood. Friday evening Rosaries, listening to the clicking of the beads as they passed through my mother’s fingers, her whispered Hail Mary’s as she prayed the decades and began the cycle again and again as I impatiently waited for it to be over so my sister and I could go out and play.

Saturday afternoons in the quiet of the church where my sister and I helped her ‘do the flowers’.  The careful carrying of the vases of week old flowers to the sink in the back of the sacristy, the pouring out of the stale water, the careful selecting out of still living plants and the placement of the new flowers that waited by the sink, wrapped up in old newspaper.

Then there was Sunday morning with its inevitable rush of getting four children all dressed up in Sunday best, out the door and in the car and down the road to church. Sitting on the hard benches. Swinging my legs, looking around, being poked by my sister and poking her back and then, the inevitable admonition from my mother to sit still, be quiet, pay attention. On Sundays, there was no breakfast until after the 10am Mass. I prayed the sermon would be short, the greetings afterwards of neighbours and friends even shorter. Always, my father would meet someone and invite them back for breakfast. Always, they came. My father’s breakfasts were legendary.

Coming to Barry’s Bay to visit Andrew and Ursula has become a tradition C.C. and I treasure. In the past, we have come in the fall to witness the turning of the leaves and to spend the ebbing of the summer season with our hosts as they prepared to return to Calgary for the winter. Andrew and Ursula, like so many people of Polish descent, are fiercely proud of their heritage. In 1859, the Kashub’s fled Poland to settle in the Barry’s Bay area in what is recognized as the first Polish settlement in Canada. Streets, towns, valleys, rivers, lakes all bear the mark of this proud people and their efforts to settle what was then a wild and unpopulated area of the country.

IMG_4420As a young married couple, Ursula and Andrew brought their family to Barry’s Bay every summer to the secluded bay where their beautiful summer home now sits. Back then, the family lived within the confines of a one room cottage that served as kitchen, eating area and sleeping quarters for their family of 5. Today, the land Andrew’s father purchased over 60 years ago with two friends, has been subdivided into 4 lots where Andrew, his brother, Conrad and two other sons of the original owners have built their summer retreats. Surrounded on either side by Crown Lands, there are no other cottages on the bay. It is quiet, serene and peaceful. And it is steeped in Polish tradition.

Whenever we’ve come in the fall, we’ve visited the site of the Karpaty Scout Camp a place where Ursula came as a young girl and later as a young wife to share her love of the outdoors and Polish tradition. For 50 years, the Camp has been the site of hundreds of a jamboree where young boys and girls come to the banks of Halfway Lake where the Karpaty is located, to learn the ways of the forest, and always, the ways of the Catholic church.

At the Karpaty is a “Cathedral in the Pines” where every Sunday during the Scout camps, mass is celebrated outdoors.

Yesterday was the beginning of the Scout Camp jamboree. It was also the first mass of the season and the Bishop, as well as the Polish ambassador were in attendance. We had to go.

It seems that no matter how far I have come from wondering where God lived from Monday to Saturday, and wanting to know why girls couldn’t be priests, the rituals of my childhood run deep within my body. As we sat outdoors and the congregation prayed and the priest recited the liturgy in Polish, the responses came naturally to my mind.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,

Holy, Holy, Holy,

Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

Lord God of Hosts.

Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.

Full are heaven and earth of thy glory.

Hosanna in excelsis.

Hosanna in the highest.

IMG_4432It didn’t matter that everyone around me was speaking Polish. It didn’t matter that I didn’t understand a word of what they were singing. The essence of the words lived within me.

Yesterday, I sat amidst the pines, listening to the mass recited in Polish, and felt connected to life, to nature and to a faith I have long ago left behind as I learned to carve my own spiritual path in the world.

And yesterday, I was reminded that no matter what path I carve, it is the security of my roots that gives me the freedom today to explore my path without fearing where it will lead me. For in my roots is the unshakable belief that even though I no longer practice the faith of my childhood, this is a world of glory, and this is a life to be lived in joy and Love in a universe of great mystery and wonder.

Author: Louise Gallagher

I believe we each have the capacity to be the change we want to see in the world, to make a world of difference. I believe we are creative beings on the journey of our lifetimes. It's up to each of us to Live It Up and SHINE!

16 thoughts on “Cathedral in the Pines

  1. I can only imagine how gorgeous it is there. I find as I get older I think more and more about roots and although I am older and presumedly wiser, the foundation of who I am is buildt on what I was taught as a child and my childhood values and beliefs…


  2. I’m starting a new trend by changing the spelling of certain words like *buildt which can be present or past tense and eliminates the need to think about how to spell it, think it will catch on it? 😉


  3. Thank you for such a personal and inspiring blog. I have always felt one strength of the liturgy is the familiarity with the form of the service, which allows us to recognize and join in the worship regardless of what language is being spoken. I am not Catholic, but know that the Church has been the vessel of the word and grace of God. My own traditions are as dear to me, and there is no joy greater than joining with my family in the familiar form of our own meetings, renewing sacred promises of love and service. Your cathedral in the pines sounds marvelous — as does the whole camp!


  4. What a beautiful place on earth! And good people, too! xoxo


  5. It sounds like a beautiful place our roots mean more to us as we age.


  6. Your reflections took me in and reminded me of all the scurrying we used to do to get to Sunday School….and the peppermint lifesavers my dad would slip me to keep me calm thru the service. What a lovely and spiritual place…..God is one language….if we’ll just let Him be. ♥


  7. I have been eerily taken back to another time and place in my life.
    Those roots you speak of remain, even if the leaves above are scattered to the winds.


  8. So true Elizabeth — “even if the leaves above are scattered to the winds” — lovely.


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