Today I pause and bless the Roman Catholic Church for a blessing it has given me. I should really say a Roman Catholic Church. It stands in the midst of downtown Newton, stretching its single shingled limb toward heaven every day of the year, reminding each passerby that the God of the heavens made his home among men. It is a beautiful church, much more elegant and grand than any of its protestant sisters (I could have said step-sisters and turned this into one large Cinderella metaphor; be thankful I didn’t) scattered around town. No other building downtown can match it. Cloudy days make all the other flat dirty-brick Main Street façades look like dreary Atheists lining the street, but St. Mary’s stands tall, striking and strong, inviting storms—devil-conjured or otherwise—in the knowledge that the church will prevail. It is even more grand in contrast to the modernist, utilitarian Harvey County Correctional facility just a few steps away. Two buildings stand staring at each other across 8th street. One can free the soul and change the person from the heart out; one can imprison the body but do little about the soul; both have good uses.
Saint Mary’s is a symbol of real, divine strength. The very word, “Catholic” brings to the imagination visions of vast and unordered peasant armies; red cross bearing knights and colossal cathedrals under construction for five hundred years—all in an attempt to reflect the glory of God. St. Mary’s captures all the good and noble parts of that ancient church energy and blesses Newton with it every day.
At its core, my delight in our downtown Catholic Church is in its architecture. This may be scoffed at as weak and ‘surfacy’, but I can and will be thankful for anything that reflects Christ’s beauty, and Saint Mary’s is a beautiful place. So today I say, “Thanks” to the catholic church on 8th street. I admit, I’m a protestant and attend Grace Community Church, but I cannot help praising the grandeur of Saint Mary’s steeple, statues and brick: reflections of the grandeur of God.
R. Eric Tippin
In The Study on 8th Street