Holy hallways

| December 11, 2014 | 0 Comments
Surrounded by more than 200 crosses on the walls and ceiling, Will Schafer sits in the basement of his Lakeville home, which he has labeled the “Chapel of 200 Crosses and Hail Marys.” Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Surrounded by more than 200 crosses on the walls and ceiling, Will Schafer sits in the basement of his Lakeville home, which he has labeled the “Chapel of 200 Crosses and Hail Marys.” Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

After more than two decades in his modest home in Lakeville, Will Schafer of All Saints parish decided it was time to do something about the basement.

It was unfinished, as of 2012, and he told his wife, Barbara, that he wanted to bring it up to date.

One morning about two years ago, shortly after waking up, he walked into the kitchen and picked up a greeting card that was sitting on the table.

He happened to think of a cross, and sketched it on the back of the card.

That’s it, he thought to himself. He would finish the basement using the cross as the dominant decor theme.

He got his brother-in-law, Arnie Schommer from St. Cloud, involved and together they made and placed 191 crosses on the ceiling, and several dozen more on the walls.

Today, Will beams with pride when he shows off the spiritual symbols to those who pay him a visit. And, the sheer number of them got him to wondering out loud on a recent afternoon.

“Do you know how to get that in the Guinness Book of World Records — most crosses in a chapel?” he wondered as he offered a look at the creation of what he now calls the “Chapel of 200 Crosses and Hail Marys.”

More than likely, the number of crosses in a chapel are not a recognized category in the hallowed book.

That’s OK, as Schafer had a much higher purpose in mind when he put the simple black crosses up with the help of Schommer and another brother-in-law, Mark Schulte. He wanted a place where people would be reminded of the symbol that is at the heart of the Christian faith.

He also wanted to create an atmosphere conducive to prayerful reflection on the cross of Christ.

“I just spend some quiet time down here,” he said. “I pray the rosary, then I pray the Stations of the Cross.”

All 14 stations are depicted on the walls, along with pictures of three popes — Francis, Benedict XVI and John Paul II. Also in the basement are a pair of 4-foot statues of Mary and Joseph (holding Jesus), which were made in Peru.

And, if the sight of crosses everywhere doesn’t turn people’s thoughts to Jesus, there’s the numerous writings on the wall to help. Here are a few examples:

“Lift high the cross.”

“Keep your eyes on the cross.”

“Take your cross and follow.”

“Jesus died on a cross for you and me.”

Schafer is especially proud of a short piece he wrote that adorns one of the basement walls. It reads:

“There is always music amongst the trees and in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it in a chapel of 200 crosses.”

Schafer realizes that his decision to place more than 200 crosses in his basement counters the practice of placing just one cross in a room as a focal point for prayer. But, he went with high numbers for a reason.

“It just [signifies] that there are lots of crosses in the world — and I have borne a few,” said Schafer, a retired accountant and Vietnam War veteran who has Multiple Sclerosis. “I have been in a wheelchair since 1980. I came down with M.S. in 1974. . . . I am reminded of the cross every day when I get up.”

One last cross remains to be installed. It’s one that will be affixed to a large rosary that he is working on.

“As soon as we get this rosary up, that will be it — no more space to do anything else,” he said, noting that the entire project has one simple goal for him. “It will help me get to where I’m going — heaven.”

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