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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Smell (the sense of smell) (07/29/10)

TITLE: Sanctuary
By Joanne Cordaro


It was the sign that caught my attention. It said, “Hapless or Hopeless? Come on in. You’re welcome here at St. Jude’s Church!” Could anyone resist such an invitation?

I stepped out of the bright sunlight and into the old church. As my eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, I took a few tentative steps down the central aisle. I looked up and saw a beautiful stained-glass window. It was of a famous picture that I have loved for years. In the scene, Jesus is sitting on a large rock, tenderly holding a baby lamb to his chest, comforting it. I ached to know what it was like to be that lamb resting so safely in those arms.

I walked further down the aisle. I grimaced at the sound of my shoes squeaking on the polished tile floor. The harsh sound contrasted the church’s sweet silence. I thanked God for allowing me to be the only person inside the church since that meant my shoes had not disturbed anyone, other than me, of course.

I slowly continued my way down the center aisle and chose a pew about half way to the altar. I slid into the pew and sat down. I traced my fingers along the cool wood of the pew in front of me, it felt like polished glass.

I have traveled around the globe. No matter where I visited, I always sought out churches. The older the church, the more comfortable I seemed to feel within its doors.

I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, savoring the familiar fragrance. I smiled as I let my memories take me back to grade school. There are few things more comforting to me than the smell of a church.

St. Jude’s still used real candles for special devotions. In the day of electronic, flickering, push-button candles, it seemed a special treat to see live flames dancing in front of me. I said a prayer to Jesus to grant the desires and heal the pain of the people who lit those devotion candles. It seemed like the least I could do for them. They weren’t strangers, only people I hadn’t met.

Maybe I should have explained myself. Church was always a place of sanctuary for me, in an otherwise chaotic life. No matter what went on outside its doors, there was peace for me inside them. In the air, there were hints of burnt incense and candles. Mostly though, there is a clean smell, like there has been a purification. Of souls? Perhaps. Of hearts? Most likely.

My gaze finally floated to the main altar. A single spotlight shone on Jesus’ face as he hung on the crucifix above me. I thought of a line from a favorite gospel song, “Amazing love, how could it be? That you, my King, would die for me?”

My eyes met with Jesus’ eyes. Immediately, mine welled up. Without social embarrassment, I let the tears fall where they fell. I whispered my prayer, “Jesus, life has just been so very hard. The turmoil from my childhood has caught up with me. The pain and the sorrow that ruled my life has returned. I am lost. Help me find my way again. Please, Jesus, help me find my way to you again.”

Several minutes (and tissues) later, my crying had stopped. I gathered my things and drew in a deep, cleansing breath before I rose to leave. I felt a deep, centered calm. I again, consciously, enjoyed the fragrance of the church. I smiled as I thought, “Mmm, that smell. It smells like hope.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/05/10
There is no smell like a church. I liked how you described it as the smell of hope.
Caitlyn Meissner08/05/10
Church has always been a special place for me, too. :)
Lollie Hofer08/10/10
Beautifully written...I could feel and see all that your mc saw and felt. One small thing...I couldn't connect with why a church smell took you back to grade school but that's probably more my not getting it than your writing. Even so, I still like the tranquil feel of this piece and the hope that it gives.