The Pioneer Home, which had been built as a large hotel, was transformed into a Senior Home l.srs. Nobuko and Damiene and I are now living there. It is being remodeled with new floors, new wall coverings, and new bathrooms, with very modern fixtures and with new furniture.
The floor where we lived and where we had been allowed to establish a chapel, was the next one to be remodeled. We had to move to another floor of the building, where the remodeling had already been completed. But we had to dismantle our chapel and store the religious objects and simple table and chairs in our community house nearby in Anchorage.
Our new rooms on the fourth floor are well done, with larger windows that give beautiful views of the mountains that surround Anchorage. We were promised another room to use as a chapel. However, with all the projects going on nothing further had been said about it. We were at a loss, not only for a place to pray, but a place where we could have the Presence of the Lord among us. In all the communities I have lived in, even the most remote in all the Americas, Diomede Island in Alaska and Eastmain in Canada, we had the presence of the Eucharist in our chapel.
We could say the Office of the day in one of our rooms. But, as I said, it was not just a question of a room but of the Presence of Jesus WITH us. In the front lounge area of our fourth floor there is a long window with a full view of the Chugach Mountains. At times it can be peaceful and prayerful but often other residents drop by to admire the view and chat a bit… In the past I would sometimes choose to pray either outdoors or sitting by windows. But now that seemed to have become “flat.” The actual physical Presence was not there… I felt lonely… I took it for granted for so many years, and now I really missed it.
Then, as I was feeling really sorry for myself, I came across a reading of Joan Chittister- “We do not go to prayer to coax God to create the world according to our personal designs or wishes. We are there to learn how to live well in the life and world we have. We go down into prayer in order to become more humble before God who made us and more confident that the God who made us will sustain us in our limitations…” So be it, I thought. But, I still experienced my life of prayer as somehow void and empty.
Weeks went by. There was a change in the top administration of the Senior Home. The new administrator suddenly stopped Nobu one day to say that a room for a chapel was being readied on the first floor. The men who do maintenance in the home were already painting it, a subtle yellow, like the early morning sunshine. They also gave a power cleaning to the rug, which took a couple of days. Finally, we could move in. This process took a few months. The long table for the altar, two small stands, and various religious symbols, like a large Icon of Mary and her Child, were easily brought back from the house here in Anchorage. However, setting up the rest of the chapel was a long effort, not because it was hard manual work, but with two of us in the mid-nineties and myself in the mid-eighties, it went very slowly. We could only work about a half hour at a time and then stop to relax… Also, we didn’t want to put it together hurriedly, but to let it develop. Finally, the tabernacle could be mounted on the altar. The next time we had Mass here in the Senior Home we brought the Presence to our tabernacle—at last Jesus was truly with us!
On the wall behind the tabernacle is a copy of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. That Last Supper was the moment that Jesus passed out bread and said: “Do this in memory of me.” So the time of our prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed is linked directly to the desire of Jesus to rest among us. To be present to us… I don’t experience it as something stiff and formal but as personal and joyous…
We are truly blessed.