Page:Our Philadelphia (Pennell, 1914).djvu/214

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194
OUR PHILADELPHIA

hidden up an alley as if its existence were a sin. But overlook it as I might, this was the one important fact about St. Joseph's which, otherwise, had no particular interest. It did not count as architecture, it boasted of no beauty of decoration: an inconspicuous, commonplace building from every point of view, of which I consequently retain but the vaguest memory. As I write, I can see, as if it were before me, the Convent chapel, its every nook and corner, almost its every stone, this altar here, that picture there, the confessional in the screened-off space where visitors sat, the dark step close to the altar railing where I carried my wrongs and my sorrows. But try as I may, I cannot see St. Joseph's as it was, cannot see any detail, nothing save the general shabbiness and untidiness that shocked my convent-bred eyes. Could it have appealed by its beauty, like the old Cathedrals of Europe, or, for that matter, like the old churches of Philadelphia, no doubt I should be able to recall it as vividly as the Convent chapel. Because I cannot, because it impressed me so superficially, I regret the more that I had not the sense to appreciate the interest it borrowed from the romance of history and the beauty of suffering—the history of the Catholic religion in Philadelphia which I might have read in this careful hiding of its temple; the suffering of the scapegoat among churches, obliged to keep out of sight, atoning for their intolerance in a desert of secrecy, letting no man know where its prayers were said or its services held. Catholics had to practise their religion like criminals skulking from the