DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Six words say it well

I’D GIVEN UP on finding the Sacred Heart. Husband Phil and I drove into and all around the Spokane Indian Reservation in search of it, but all we saw were towering evergreens, blue sky and empty roads.

I scrutinized the map in my lap. No clues had appeared since the last time I checked.

Then I looked up. Fairly miraculously, we’d just pulled onto the square of pavement in front of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, thanks to Phil’s directional skills. Walking across the grass was Father Floch (pronounced “flock”), the guy I wanted to meet.

This priest was a friend and pastor to my long-deceased mother, and now I was seeking a kind of spiritual connection to her. On some level, I knew I’d find it in Father Floch’s church, which covers a wide swath of land.

Between Saturday vigil and Sunday afternoon, he says Mass in five parishes, three on and two off the reservation. I chose the one at 12:30 p.m. Sunday to allow time to, yes, drive around searching.

As so often happens when I travel, I head out looking for one thing and find a mind-expanding something else. One of my favorite examples happened on Italy’s Adriatic coast: We got directions from the tourist office to the flamingo rookery near Polignano a Mare, and found no pink birds whatsoever.

Across the road from the seashore was a magnificent grove of ancient olive trees, each of their trunks gnarled with personality and wisdom.

Back on the Spokane reservation, I was about to receive another kind of wisdom, and for once I let it in. Inside the white church awaited wooden pews just like the ones I’d squirmed in as a kid, and families like those I’d watched. In the pew in front of us stood a dad with two teenage sons and a daughter, a girl of about 6 with sparkling brown eyes, a gleaming ponytail and a T-shirt that said “Best Sister.” She checked me out. My heart melted at her sassy expression.

A petite woman with a long, silver-threaded column of black hair went to the pulpit to give readings from the Old and New Testaments. Then we all stood for the gospel, and settled back into our pews for Father Floch’s homily.

Yes, he seemed weary. But then he got rolling into a story about serving as a military chaplain, and meeting another one who behaved more like a drill sergeant than a spiritual counselor.

We all know people like this: full of wind, blowing too hard. Father Floch recalled someone saying to the sergeant, “You’re so loud, I can’t hear you.”

In other words, message lost in bluster.

We humans — rich, poor and in between — have a need for quiet moments and connection with the divine, Father Floch said and I agree. He quoted Psalm 46’s “Be still, and know that I am God,” then recrafted it into something wholly nondenominational.

“Shut up, and open your heart.”

Six words that make sense, whoever and wherever you might be.

Homily complete, Father Floch and a eucharistic minister, a tough-looking dude with a bandanna knotted around his head, gave us communion wafers and wine sips. Then came the part of mass I’d forgotten after all these years.

“Let us offer one another the sign of peace,” the pastor said. Everybody turned to everyone else, extending their hands to say, “Peace be with you.” No small talk. No “Where you from?” Just peace.


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Dec. 18.

Reach her at [email protected]

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