Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beaver Island: Holy Cross in St. James

Growing up in Northern-Lower Michigan, I thought I had been everywhere along the shoreline of West Michigan. That thought seemed to be true until Seminarian Ben Rexroat was assigned for the summer to Holy Cross Church in St. James on Beaver Island. Chris Jarvis and I realized that this isle was extremely foreign to both of us; we were both raised on the Lake Michigan coast, but we had never taken the 32 mile journey from Charlevoix's harbor across to America's "Emerald Isle" popularly known as, Beaver Island. So Chris and I: packed our bags, breviaries, purchased our boarding passes for the Emerald Isle Ship, grabbed a cup-o-joe, got on board and made the voyage over to the isle of Beaver Island.
There was something wonderful and peaceful about being in port right before you leave the harbor,mainly because the ship is safe within the harbor walls. But that is not what a ship/boat is made to do. It was built to be taken out of the harbor and into the open abyss and anything, literally anything, can happen once you break the pier and enter into the open waters of the Great Lakes. And this is where our journey begins.

Once we were on board it was like we had never been on a ship before and everything seemed wonderful and new. Of course we both had images of famous ships come flooding into our minds. And Chris and I had a great time for diocesan brotherhood as we journeyed towards our destination. After we prayed Office of Readings and Morning Prayer, which I couldn't help but think of Fr. Thomas Byles, the priest who was on board the Titanic when it sank who was noted for praying Night Prayer at the time it struck the ice berg, we went to the bow of the ship to talk some more before heading back into the main deck.

As I stated before, once you leave the pier anything can happen . . . well, it did. As we were going back into the inside of deck 1 a gentleman asked us, "Are you two priests?" We told him no, we were Seminarians and thus, a conversation of life, prayer and discernment began amongst the three of us.      It was fascinating listing to his story and coming to know how that the Lord worked through us to help each other better understand his church and his people. You hear it time and time again, "the Lord is everywhere you just have to look for Him." Well, we found him in this wonderful man. We parted our ways and then right before we could see the island we went to the bow of the ship where we ran into Rob and his friend Penny. Interesting enough, we all have either graduated from a school or will be attending a school named after the great saint, Saint Thomas Aquinas, again how God works is amazing!   After we docked we parted ways but told them to stop by the church and pray evening prayer with us the next day - but they had to make that evening ferry back to the mainland. Rob or Penny took the photo above of Chris and I right before we were to dock in St James' Harbor on Beaver Island.
St. James is a quint, quite and extremely friendly town and we looked loss since Ben wasn't at the pier when the Emerald Isle made port. But a wonderful lady told us where to go, and don't worry, we made the less than two block trip from the pier to the church/rectory. Once we were there Ben pulled up and greeted. Ben showed us the whole island . . . the highlight besides the church, rectory and fraternity was: Portar's Home & Grave, Paradise Island Coffee Shop (it's in the middle of the woods-so awesome and they had expresso!), South Island Light House, and the views of Lake Michigan! When we got back to the rectory there was a note right inside the door with two small magnets for Chris and I from our ferry friends, Rob and Penny. However, they left no contact information but we were still so excited that they even stopped by that we know, by the grace of God we will bump into them again sometime, somewhere. The picture is Ben and Chris on Protar's front porch! 

The next day we had a blast praying the breviary, getting breakfast at the Coffee Shop in the Woods, getting coffee at the Harbor Market, kayaking/canoeing, and more importantly getting ready for Evening Prayer. Chris and Ben leading the ten plus gathered in the beautiful church of the Holy Cross. I played about fifteen minutes of prelude music and the hymn for the Liturgy of the Hours. I was told by the ladies that I was not allowed to leave the island and I had to stay and play every Sunday! Afterwards we had an amazing potluck dinner with a fantastic view of the harbor! We were able to meet and mingle with God's people; they were revealing stories from long ago and we telling our vocation. It was just an awesome God moment! The picture to the left is those who were at the Evening Prayer - Ben took the photo so I could be in it. 

The next morning, the sunrise on Lake Michigan was amazing. So, I had to go down to the beach to try to capture the the first rays of the day hitting the peaceful harbor. Then the three of us prayed the Office of Reading and Morning prayer. Chris and I packed our stuff and boarded the Emerald Isle to headed back to the mainland of Michigan.

We had a fantastic bon-voyage as we said farewell to a little island that neither Chris nor I was ready to leave. So, I recommend people from our diocese to take the ship across the big lake, Lake Michigan to St. James and see Holy Cross. Because once you leave the harbor anything can happen! And remember Rob and Penny the ones we met heading over. Well, God's providence took place! I ran into Rob in Petoskey, Mi not even two days after getting back! This time, we got contact information and we have started a prayer circle amongst the four of us! In a single moment when Chris and I decided to "Let Go and Let God," God totally provided what we needed and when! How awesome is that?!?!?! Praise God for He is Good!