Chapel: A Word, A History, and Soothing Breath

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"Chapel: A Word, A History, and Soothing Breath" by Kimberly Nettuno (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Kimberly Nettuno. All rights reserved.

A Word

The word chapel developed from the Latin word cappa, meaning “cloak.” So how did we get from a garment to a building?

The answer to this question lies within a shrine created to hold the sacred cloak of St. Martin of Tours. In Medieval Latin, this church was called “Cappella.” Later, the meaning of “Cappella” broadened to include any building that housed a sacred relic, and eventually to a place of worship. Old French picked up the term as Chapelle, which in turn passed into English as Chapel in the 13th century. In fact, the term a cappella, meaning “without instrumental accompaniment,” entered English from Italian, where it means “in chapel style.” (www.merriam-webster.com)

A History

“St. Martin of Tours, a young soldier in the Roman army, experienced a vision, which became the most-repeated story about his life. One day as he was approaching the gates of the city of Amiens, he met a scantily clad beggar. He impulsively cut his military cloak in half to share with the man. 

That night, Martin dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak. He heard Jesus say to the angels: “Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe.” 

The part kept became the famous relic preserved in the oratory of the Merovingian kings of the Franks at the Marmoutier Abbey near Tours. During the Middle Ages, the supposed relic of St. Martin’s miraculous cloak, was carried by the king even into battle.(www.catholic.org)

Soothing Breath

In December of 2015, I miraculously became fascinated with words and the way they brought healing to my broken life. So of course, when thinking of a purposeful article to write, and my mind turned to a word we are all familiar with, I couldn’t stop at Chapel! I had to feed this enchantment.

I was, again, amazed as I recognized the sweet intonation I could contribute, granting combined letters soothing breath. Furthermore, I became intrigued with the underlying origins that bestowed upon this simple word — history. Although I have obviously been able to speak for years, I never before perceived the affection one word could provide to an ordinary space. Furthermore, the reminder it contained that we can journey forward surrounded by its warmth. We only need share it with others.

"Chapel: A Word, A History, and Soothing Breath" by Kimberly Nettuno (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Kimberly Nettuno. All rights reserved.

The Cloak

A Chapel (a sacred space) within our homes can be as elaborate as a room, or as simple as a special chair in the corner of a room. The word sacred means “connected with God or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration.”  This space is, simply, a place for you to connect with God — The Cloak.

We recently built a new house and decided to dedicate one of two closets in our bedroom to this sacred space. It is that place where we connect with the Lord through Scripture, inspiration, and prayer. Dedicating this small area took some rearranging and a smidge of sacrifice as we began to rid ourselves of the excesses within the old closet. The building process now complete; it is funny how I can’t remember the mountains of clothing packed into the many donation bags, yet space overflows with abundance.

Carrying the Cloak

The cloak’s absence becomes apparent when I am away from this sacred space. I yearn for the warmth it offers to my day, which has me wonder how we can don a bit of “chapel style” wherever we may go? After all, aren’t cloaks meant to travel with you? Yes, they were never intended to stay within the confines of a closet; they are for the journey. Below are two ways I carry my cloak a capella style:

"Chapel: A Word, A History, and Soothing Breath" by Kimberly Nettuno (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Kimberly Nettuno. All rights reserved.

The Little Cloak in the Desk Drawer

Bring your cloak to work by turning your desk drawer into a small sacred space with the addition of some of your favorite inspirational items.

Suggested items to fill one desk drawer: 

1 Small Journal

1 Prayer Book or Bible

Catholic Calendar

Books of Inspiration

A Rosary

A Candle and lighter

A Pen

A Bookmark

A Cross

In Only A Few Minutes a Day

We set many appointments throughout our day, why not schedule a recurring date with the Lord? Don’t worry about the amount of time allotted as much as planning the same time every day. This way the time becomes an embraced habit. You will soon find you look forward to visiting the sacred space you’ve created.

"Chapel: A Word, A History, and Soothing Breath" by Kimberly Nettuno (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Kimberly Nettuno. All rights reserved.

The Cloak that Travels

In today’s world, most of us either endure long drives to work, are incredibly overscheduled, or don’t work in a conventional office space. If this sounds like a standard day, why not travel a capella style?

Suggested items to accompany the journey:

Your Favorite Prayer Apps

1 Willing Ear

A Journaling App (I use Writer Plus)

In Only A Few Minutes a Day

Let’s face it, we might forget our books, journals, candles, pens, but we NEVER forget our phones. As much as I don’t want to admit it, it has become my lifeline. Without it I would have no idea where I was supposed to be at 9 am or 2 pm; whether to bring a raincoat with me; how to get to that forgotten meeting; and let’s not even mention going without the photos of our kiddos to show off at lunch with friends.

Don’t forget to schedule a time, trying to keep it regular. I will share a few apps I use on my journeys. There is an abundance available; pick the ones that most inspire you.

  • Give Us This Day

Following the format of the popular booklet, this app guides you through the day with Morning Prayer, Blessed Among Us, Mass, Reflection, and Evening Prayer. It is, for me, the complete package and one I turn to every day.

  • Catholic Daily Reflection

Loaded with inspirations, I love the Divine Mercy reflections. They begin with a passage from St. Faustina’s Diary then a short reflection to set you on your way. There is also 40 Days at the Foot of the Cross which I will be trying for Lent this year.

  • Laudate

One of the more popular apps, it includes Liturgy of Hours, Daily Prayer, Daily Bible Verse, Mass, The Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and much more. Also available are two of my favorite inspirations:  Pray-as-you-go Meditations and Pray-as-you-go Rosary. You must search specifically for them in the app store; they are not within the Laudate app itself – they are the hands-down best solution for being stuck in traffic!

  • 3-Minute Retreat

Provided by Loyola Press, this is a wonderful respite from your busy day returning you to the warmth of that little cloak. It begins with the most beautiful melody, then walks you through a bible verse. The reflection is brevity drenched with satisfaction and ends with thought-provoking questions and prayer.

  • Minute of Prayer

This little prayer app is the perfect cloak to warm you. It includes six short prayers for those times when you are most in need of the gentle reminder that He is by your side.

Sharing the Cloak

As we journey with our cloak in hand as St. Martin of Tours, we must recognize the story goes on to tell us he offered half of the cloak to another. This task of giving belongs to all of us. A brief investigation into the history of the word Chapel (a sacred space) grants us a blessed reminder. Although we have the ability to carry our cloaks with us, it is in the sharing of the inspiration gained within that sacred space that indeed offers the most warmth. . . .

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love?

These are the real questions – Henri Nouwen

Allow me to add to this beautiful quote humbly:

Did I carry my cloak today? Did I share its warmth with someone else?

Copyright 2017 Kimberly Nettuno

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About Author

Kimberly Nettuno posts her poetry and reflections at www.becomingsound.me. When not writing, she enjoys working on her farm in North Georgia where she makes certified organic goodies for her critters and the surrounding, local farms. She shares this life with her husband, three home-schooled daughters, two dogs, two cats, three horses, eight goats, some two dozen chickens, and thousands of bees.

1 Comment

  1. First, I did not know this word origin. As a singer, I appreciate learning too the origin of a capella and appeciate your insight and imagery for carrying our coak, seeking its warmth and sharing it with others. Finally, your suggestion about turning a drawer into a little cloak is a welcome one.
    I moved offices and took over a new desk and never had time to attend to the desk drawer, which became a repository for many things I use, but not well organizd or made an intentional place. Your idea to make it a sacred place for my daily prayer life is one that gives me much excitement and comes at a welcome time at the start of our Lenten journey.

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