I was raised Jewish. Now I say I’m a “touchist”, maybe a member of the Church of the Living Hand!
In any case, these days my church is along the walk I take each morning with my golden retriever, Phoebe. We walk west down my street, 39 ½ Street, to Shoal Creek, a boulevard named for the creek that runs alongside it. The banks of Shoal Creek were gathering places for the Tonkawa Indians. About half a mile south of my starting point, there’s a turn in the creek, where it’s joined by an ancient springs, now called Seider Springs. From 1871 to 1890, this was the site of a Mr. Seider’s pleasure resort covered with bathhouses filled from the springs. There lies along the west side of the banks reached by a little bridge, an expansive grassy area with a beautiful grove of live oak trees.
But on the east side is where the Patron Saint of my church lives. One of the flows from the springs comes out from an opening in a small limestone cliff facing the creek. Imbedded, almost hidden there, in the cliff face is a beautiful statue of St. Francis of Assisi, evidently by the famous Austin sculptor, Charles Umlauf.
Every day Phoebe and I stop in front of the saint. We tell him of our joys, troubles, hopes – we honor him and ask him how is he doing in turn (he’s always good).
One day on the nearby bridge across Shoal Creek, I found a little purple butterfly that turned out to be a plastic something usually affixed to a schoolgirl’s pen. I took it and placed it by the saint as a colorful offering. A couple of days later I was disappointed that it had disappeared. Then I looked more closely and someone had taken the butterfly and placed it in the Saint’s right hand, placed it right in front of his heart.
So each day I pray to and with Saint Francis with the Purple Butterfly Heart. If I’m sad, that makes me happier. If I’m happy, the purple butterfly, and I, and Saint Francis, and Phoebe, the retriever of golden things, savor our contentment and share gratitude for this life and this earth.