Navigating by St. Mary’s

In our small town, St. Mary’s is a church and a school, both Catholic. The church has been around since 1846 and claims about 40 percent of the town’s residents as members. The school started 10 years later. For years, it went through high school, but it now ends at eighth grade. When St. Mary’s kids finish middle school, they usually come to Fredericksburg High School to finish their education. My son has become friends with a lot of St. Mary’s guys because they dominate the sports teams. And now that my son and his friends are beginning to drive, an interesting distinction between the public and private school kids has been revealed:

The St. Mary’s guys navigate by St. Mary’s. Many of them are incapable of finding their way around town without driving to St. Mary’s first.

So, if they want to run to Sonic after basketball practice, they have to drive to St. Mary’s. Same if they want to go to McDonald’s. Or Walmart. Or even certain gas stations.

I find it fascinating that for a certain group of young men in our town, a church is still the center of their world.


  1. Lovely.
    Oh, you’ve touched on something for me here. There are several destinations in town that my husband and I take different routes to get to. The path depends on who’s driving. So many times I’ve sat in the passenger’s seat and wondered why he chose this way or that way instead of the way I choose when I am driving. I usually don’t ask. After all, there is more than one right way and we always let the driver do the driving.

    Over time, I’ve come to see reasons why, why it makes sense to him to approach from one direction instead of another. Or that he is oriented differently because of where his work is located and always comes at this particular place from a particular direction or likes to park facing a certain way. These are not conscious choices, but habits, habits with valid roots.

    Long ramble, sorry.

    I love that these young men you’ve written about have paths laid that always take them past their ‘starting point,’ the center of their universe where school and athletic practices and club meetings (perhaps) have required them to be.

    I love, too, that you noticed.


  2. Very cool. Sadly, the point of reference in my hometown was the McDonald’s.

  3. This immediately catapults me back to the years we lived in a tiny farming community in Upstate NY. That little white country church with the steeple was the very center of our lives.

  4. What a fascinating observation!

  5. Right now, the thought of young men driving makes my stomach hurt :). Thanks for your kind words over at my place. We have to figure this vision thing out before we get behind the wheel. But, yeah, when the doc said, “you’ll never drive a big rig–especially out of state,” the first words out of my sarcastic mouth were , “oh, darn, there goes my dream!”

    Having a center is a nice thing. Making it a church–even better, God–is pretty wonderful.

  6. Hi Megan,

    Interesting observation 🙂

  7. How amazingly cool is that??? You find the most interesting things to reflect on, Megan. Must be because you’re a poet at heart. :>)

  8. Yep, there’s something powerful about a center. And young men who must take the center path.

  9. On a mission trip to a city in Cuba, I could only navigate my way “home” by looking up to this one royal palm high reaching heavenward. All the homes looked the same, except the doors. (I learned my door but I can’t remember it now.) I could have gotten turned around so easily except for that tree. It is etched in my memory and that was over a decade ago. I need to think about why it remains vivid in my mind.

  10. When the steeple stopped being the tallest thing against the skyline, this direction-by-church seemed to be lost. I find it encouraging that at least in the physical realm, the church is still the starting point.

  11. Hi Megan! I’ve wandered here from Jennifer’s “gorgeous” tribute to you and your birthday. =) Happy Birthday!!!!

    This post reminds me of Ave Maria, a relatively new town here in SW Florida that was purposely built around a Catholic Church and the surround new Catholic University. It’s a fascinating town to visit. The church steeple is the first thing you see from the highway…and my heart is drawn to the concept that the church is the center. If you are interested, I wrote about it this past fall here:

  12. I think the parish concept is something that the church could really benefit from in our fractured, automobile driven society. When the church is the center of a community, it changes things. This is a lovely reflection of that, Megan.

    I hear birthday wishes are in order, too! Celebrate fully, my friend, despite all of the fears and difficulties. You have life and breath today, and I am rejoicing!

    • I am SO hoping and praying that your birthday getaway is delightful, reflective, relationship-building, encouraging and filled with beauty. Sometimes the beauty will bring tears – and that’s okay, too. Happy, happy birthday, Megan. May you celebrate the wonder of who you are and who you are becoming.

  13. “The Church” should always be the center of OUR world.
    Great story!

  14. My daughter goes for her drivers liscence next week. Her sister’s been driving for a while, so she already knows how to get around town… 🙂

    Nice post, Megan.