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Meditations on a Wood Floor View Comments
By Charity Vogel

SOME PEOPLE FLIP on the TV or climb on the treadmill when they get stressed. Others go shopping, draw a bath or rip open a bag of Oreos.

But I’ve found a different means of escape, and it’s about as plain and prosaic as a peanut butter sandwich. For me, relief from worry and care comes through the weathered wooden floors in my old Victorian house. Knotty and scarred, worn smooth by the decades, these old heart pine floors have saved my sanity quite a few times. And I’m sure—as sure as I am of anything in this stress-driven world—that they’ll do it again.

Take an example from the recent past. In February 2009, an airplane carrying 49 people crashed to the ground in a suburb near my home. It was a traumatic event and it stunned the community, not to mention the country.

As a journalist at the major metropolitan daily newspaper in our region, moments like these for me—and for my husband, who is also a reporter—aren’t just tragedies. They are calls to relentless, deadline-driven work. The two of us spent days and nights in the newsroom after the crash, writing stories about the disaster. By the end of those grueling shifts, we were spent.

We came home, and my husband went off to fix a snack. (We had been living on newsroom pizza.) But instead of sinking onto the couch, I headed straight for the basement—and the Murphy Oil
Soap.

Wiping the wood floors in my house that night soothed my spirit and calmed my mind. Instead of seeing images of the downed plane on an endless loop in my mind, I saw the grain in antique pine planks, darkened by more than a century of steady use, some parts worn smooth as a cloister walk, other parts roughened and shrunk with age.

Instead of the smell of jet fuel, I inhaled the lemon-and-honey smell of oil soap, homey and innocent. That night I realized again what I already knew: Wiping down these old wooden boards with warm soapy water is an act of health and cleanliness, of organization and structure. It is a way to reclaim order and to reassert control in a world where those qualities can be difficult to find.

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Charity Vogel is a prize-winning journalist who holds a doctorate in English from the University of Buffalo. A native of Buffalo, she lives in a 19th-century Victorian with her husband, T.J., and two small daughters. She is currently at work on a book for Cornell University Press.

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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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