The ineffable sadness of St. Wenceslaus

I wanted to like the St. Wenceslaus cemetery in Scappoose, Oregon. There are some parts of the Catholic faith that appeal to me, and I’m not sure why. I like elements of the ritual objects; I’m intrigued by how saints become patrons of some of the oddest things; I admire the gorgeous marble sculptures of church and yard; and I find the dolor of the Mater Dolorosas to be the most authentic emotion I’ve ever seen in art. I always root for the underdog, so a cemetery named for the Father of the Wretched should make me happy. Instead, my visit left me very glum.

It started with the angels. There was this one, which looks like it has a head injury.

Photo by the author.

Then there was this one. The art deco styling of the angel was elegant and streamlined, and very beautiful. But the expression on its face was crashingly depressed.

Photo by the author
Photo by the author

Then there was the utter despair of a young girl in a nightgown clinging to the cross, asking to be saved. Beautifully carved, but desperate and dead just the same. Just beyond this sculpture is a weathered, battered, falling-down fence with missing boards.

The Christ on the cross sculpture was also very beautiful, but maybe too realistic? I don’t remember Christ being starved in the Bible stories. Poor guy had it hard enough already.

Photo by the author

Besides the falling-down fence, the cemetery signs were weathered and mostly illegible. It was an overcast day, and the cemetery is surrounded by a boring suburban neighborhood. None of this helped my first impression.

It looks like the St. Wenceslaus Church community is a fairly large and thriving one. With just a few work parties, and some more care and upkeep, the St. Wenceslaus Cemetery could be a much lovelier and welcoming resting place, a place of spiritual rest rather than despair.

Sometimes it happens that a cemetery rubs me the wrong way. There might be nothing wrong with it really, yet it leaves me with a feeling of sadness or unease. Perhaps I’ll stop in again during a bright summer day and see if it lifts my spirits more than this time.

Stump and Lamb explores personal growth and meaning via travels to pioneer cemeteries of the West. Posts may contain affiliate links.

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