We all see the stone fence along the road every time we come to St. Anthony’s. It stands as a sentinel, guarding this holy place. But I wonder how many have every really looked at it, studied it, meditated on it.
I have often stopped to look closely at the stones that make up the wall. They are all different colors, different sizes, different shapes. The surface is jagged, with edges and points of the stones jutting out randomly. Yet somehow, I’m sure with much effort on the part of its builders, the stones come together to form a beautiful landmark. This landmark has stood through summer heat and winter cold for almost 100 years. It has been battered by wind and rain year after year, yet it still stands, silently welcoming thousands to this peaceful haven.
The foundation of the building was built in the same way, and I frequently wander the basement halls and marvel at what was built here. But unlike the stone fence, a coat of paint on the basement walls masks the diversity that lies under the surface.
A retreat reflection a couple of years ago caused me to look at the stone fence and basement walls as a metaphor for my life. If I focus on each individual piece of my life, the “stones” seem imperfect. I see rocks as obstacles and I wonder how any good could come of them. But in the hands of the Master Builder, these imperfect and diverse pieces continue to come together in ways I could never have imagined to beautifully serve God’s purposes.
These walls are also a metaphor for the history of St. Anthony’s. The farmers who provided the rocks, the masons who built the fence and foundation, the young men who passed through the gate to join a brotherhood while leaving their families outside the fence, all the staff and volunteers through the years, and the dreamers who dared to think this place could go on when the Capuchins left: these are the varied and imperfect “stones” who alone could not hope to create what we know as St. Anthony’s. Yet the Master Builder has taken each of these “stones” and, by carefully placing them one on another, with the mortar of love and mercy holding them together, used them to create and sustain this beautiful place and provide a home for this important ministry. And despite having to weather some storms over the years, St. Anthony’s continues to welcome God’s children and remind us of God’s presence.
The stone fence is our visible reminder of how God continues to work in our individual lives and in our life together as a community, a family. If I look too closely, all I see are the flaws and imperfections. But if I can stand back a bit and take in the whole picture, I can trust that the Master Builder can take our imperfections, our shortcomings, our unique features, and use them to create something beautiful and lasting by holding all in love and mercy. I trust that God will give us the strength together to weather the storms and to continue to stand as a visible sign of God’s presence in our world.