When I was a child, working jigsaw puzzles was a frequent recreation in our home. My mother was especially fond of doing jigsaw puzzles, and I got caught up in the activity. Once in a while Uncle Bill would come with one he had worked, and he and my mother would swap puzzles.
In the novitiate there would sometimes be a big puzzle in the common area and it proved to be a good pastime.
For 35 years of my ordained life, I hardly touched a puzzle. But over the past five or six years I’ve begun to take up this hobby again. A week of vacation will include a 1,000-piece puzzle or two. (Once we worked a 2,000-piece puzzle, an ancient map of the world.) Winter evenings, when there is nothing on TV – which for me is almost every night – I find doing a puzzle relaxing. Honestly, I can get compulsive about a puzzle. “Just let me find that piece before I go to bed….”
This past year I worked on a particularly challenging 1,000-piece puzzle: a picture of St. Francis of Assisi. Every other puzzle before this one, I’ve let it sit on the table for a few days and then taken it apart and sealed the pieces in plastic bags, lest a piece get lost. Nothing worse than working a whole puzzle to find a piece missing at the end! But the St. Francis puzzle seemed too beautiful to break into pieces. A friend and I stuck it on some adhesive paper and sealed it with a kind of glue. Then I had it matted and framed. It hangs now in the chapel of the Catholic Center here at St. Monica-St. George, almost like a stained-glass window.
I’ll be moving to a different friary this summer. One of my questions about the new place was, where would there be room to work a puzzle? People give them to me now, since they know I enjoy this. Eight or nine puzzles will be moving with me to be worked some day.
(Fr. Al Hirt is Pastor of St. Monica-St. George Parish/Newman Center in Cincinnati.)