(38) The Church

(38)  The Church

Chai and Mrs. Bento failed to recognize St. Wenceslaus Church on Gladstone Avenue possibly because of their stereotypical impression of what a Catholic church should look like - always grand and Romanesque in style. Yet, this church built around 1951 is Czech in origin, minimally designed as an industrial building, probably based on practicality, and to avoid financial overload. Looking up at the building, they noticed five mosaic windows carrying religious themes, and they also saw the official entrance to the church. Walking along the building, towards the end they can see Dufferin Street. “It is indeed very visible from the busy Dufferin Street,” remarked Mrs. Bento, “I mean if you are really looking for it. We’ve passed here hundreds of times, despite the very big wooden cross fixed on the exterior wall, and a metal sign showing the name of the church, we've never noticed it!” By this time the fair sun had cast, from the trees across, a good deal of shadows on the building's beige wall, breaths of soft wind added layers of graceful movements. A modest structure with God-given beauty indeed, they thought. “Churches serve their communities,” said Mrs. Bento to Chai, “but I have not known the existence of this church and therefore unaware of the Czech community until today!”

Chai took what Mrs. Bento said to heart and later, when they got home, did some research. Today it is estimated over a hundred thousand individuals of full or partial Czech descent in Canada. Chai has little idea of who Saint Wenceslaus was, and easily found out that he was the duke of Bohemia from 921. Due to his efforts to unify Bohemia, and his support of Christian values caused him his life. He was eventually killed by supporters of his brother Boleslav in 929. Although the cause of his death was primarily from political reason, he was hailed as a martyr for the faith. By the end of the century Wenceslaus was celebrated as the nation’s patron saint. At the beginning of the 11th century St. Wenceslaus was already regarded as the patron of modern Czechoslovakia.

In the United States, it is estimated over one million people of full or partial Czech descent. That’s ten times more than Canada. Many States have erected churches in the name of St. Wenceslaus, the oldest being built in 1856 in New Prague, Minnesota. There are St. Wenceslaus Church in Baltimore, Chicago, Iowa, Montana, North and South Dakota, Oregon, Nebraska, Wisconsin and particular in the State of St. Louis - the church St. John Nepomuk built in 1854 in Gothic Revival style, is argued by many, the truly oldest Czech church in the US. From the typical look of all these churches, Chai said to Mrs. Bento a few days later, they should have no problem identifying the church. But St. Wenceslaus Church on Gladstone bears a very different look and therefore, hit their miss list. As an afterthought, they ought to be more careful next time, things cannot be judged simply by appearance. “An apple might not look like an apple!” Mrs. Bento hazily recalled.