Sacred Heart Church, Newton Centre, is an imposing red brick building, constructed in basilica style. Its corner stone dates from 1896 and the construction was the work of Irish immigrants, led by their pastor, Father Whooley, whose frowning portrait "graces" the front parlor of the rectory. Father Whooley's brother led the team of masons who decorated the church's intricate ceiling, which both recalls and surpasses that of the roughly contemporary Symphony Hall in Boston.The brick building behind the church, once the home of Whooley's horse, now houses the present pastor's Honda. Traffic on the busy Centre Street, fronting the church and rectory, is so continuous and offensive to pious ears that one yearns for the more tranquil, if no less odoriferous days, of Betsy the horse.However, a scant two city blocks away is the bucolic oasis of Crystal Lake, known in the horse and carriage era as "Baptists' Pond" (for obvious reasons). Sitting beside the lake, with the newly budding branches showing the uniquely soothing coloration of late April green, conjures atavistic memories of prelapsarian harmony (save for the honking of postlapsarian Canadian geese and their far-flung droppings).Watching the play of sun on the blue of the lake and filtered through the gossamer greenery, one can all but visualize Dante Alighieri (of course, it is he!), emerging not from Baptists' Pond, but from Eunoe's stream:

Io ritornai da la santissima onda/ rifatto s come piante novelle// rinovellate di novella fronda/ puro e disposto a salire a le stelle.From that most holy water I returned remade, as new plants are renewed with new-sprung leaves, pure and ready to rise to the stars.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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