Connecting with the Grants

I spent last week at Stella Maris Retreat Center, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. on the Jersey Shore. We bought the house in the 1940s as a vacation house where our Sisters could spend a few days away from the pressures of ministry and school. Since the 1970s, we've opened the doors of this sacred space to spiritual seekers for retreats.

Before that, the house was a grand vacation home for a rich and powerful publisher and then a copper magnate. Part of the property that is, where the main house sits. The adjoining property, which contains a newer conference center, chapel and gardens, was bought by the Sisters in 1963. It used to be the property of Ulysses S. Grant. Yes, that Ulysses S. Grant. His summer "cottage" is long gone, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, here are some pictures of his cottage and President Grant with his family taken in 1870.

On retreat, I found myself drawn to this connection between the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace with a former U.S. President and Civil War general. As I sat and gazed at the amazing beauty of God's Creation, I imagined President and Mrs. Grant sitting in pretty much the same spot, 140 years ago.

Ulysses S. Grant
The war is over
Our Nation is one
majestic as this sea --
choppy, unpredictable too
But the war is over

So much did I see
Pain, mess and blood
so much bloodshed
Wash away, wash away
the red stains from my mind's eye.

By the power with which
you created this might ocean,
wash away the pain
For the war is over
Make us whole again

Julia Grant
What does he see, I wonder
when he stares out across this vast horizon?

Hours and hours he sits,
pondering, scratching his chin.

I am so proud of him, my General
so many young men followed him

But now his eyes follow
the seagulls, waves, and grass flowing in the wind

What does he see, I wonder,
my Ulysses?

The Grant Cottage is long gone. It was apparently in sad shape when we purchased the property, and needed to be torn down. In this picture, Stella Maris is the white building in the background.

Our chapel now sits on or close to where the cottage used to be. Somehow, I find the healing power of this view of the ocean from the altar space especially fitting ... Sisters of Peace praying where a General and his family sough solace after the Civil War.

1 comment:

Pachyderm said...

What a wonderful story, and how beautiful that the Sisters are keeping this historic place alive.

How are you, my friend! Long time no hear...

Sr Therese COS