Okay, you are probably thinking, “It is way too early for Christmas”. You are right, and we have no need to rush the season. But with Halloween and the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls coming next week, we are thinking about the spirit world.
So why the Christmas tree picture? It wasn’t chosen for the tree, but for the white spot in the upper left corner of the picture that seems to look an awful lot like an angel. The interesting thing is, there was no light there, no reflection, nothing to cause that spot. None of the other pictures taken that day or since had that spot, so it was not a flaw in the camera. It was a digital camera, so no flaw in the film or processing to account for it. Nothing we found could explain that image in the picture, except for the fact that it was taken in 2020, the year Fr. Bob died at St. Anthony’s.
We sometimes get questioned about spirits in this Holy Place. We have heard stories from guests, staff and former residents of sights and sounds, like the image in the picture, that cannot be explained. With more than 104 years of history, a lot of people have walked these halls and stayed within these walls, and it is well-loved by many. So it would not be a stretch to believe that some of their spirits are still here with us. Not spooky spirits, or evil spirits, but good and kindly spirits, blessed spirits.
The two most common spirit stories are tied to Fr. Peter Hesse and Br. Bernard. Fr. Peter lived here for many years, dating back to the seminary days when he was a professor, all the way up to 2004, shortly before he died. He was a jack-of-all-trades, who knew all the ins-and-outs of St. Anthony’s and could fix almost anything. Folks have reported hearing sounds like someone dragging a ladder through the second floor hall. Those sounds have been attributed to Fr. Peter, as have been ghostly visions of a friar walking from room to room upstairs. Br. Bernard, who lived here in the seminary days, has most often been spotted in the basement, near the woodworking shop. Apparently, woodworking was a hobby he enjoyed and one he did not wish to have to give up in the next life.
There are other unexplained sounds – like footsteps overhead when no one is upstairs, or the sound of a cart being pushed through the halls when no one and nothing is in sight. And then there is the angel in the Christmas picture. Fr. Bob always liked a party, and was always willing to pitch in and help out with any work that needed to be done. So it seems reasonable that he would not want to miss our tree trimming party that year. He may have wanted to comfort us, reassure us and celebrate with us at the end of a very difficult and challenging year.
Whether one has seen or heard spirits here is not important. Fr. Marty said that the worn wooden steps in the original building always reminded him of those who were here before him. Fr. Dan, before leaving in 2014, urged us to NEVER paint or cover the concrete in the cloister halls, as they bore the footprints of all those who have walked these halls over the years. The spirits of those who have gone before us are with us, every day. If one is quiet enough, still enough, one might be blessed to see, hear or feel their presence. If not, it is enough to know they are here with us in spirit.
For all the good, kindly, blessed spirits that live in and visit this Holy Place, we say Deo Gratias!