On my little travels, I invariably find time to visit at least one local church. Anecdotally the church had six American Flags adorning the interior prominently. This struck me as perhaps over the top nationalism within a holy place, though our nation supports religious freedoms better than any country on earth. No canon law or church doctrine encourages or prohibits such practices. Just a novelty I note without judgment or concern that is particular to the prominence of the American flags in this church. The artwork, stations of the cross, stained glass windows, and architecture are beautiful.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Basilica offered me refuge yesterday morning and services (confession and Eucharist celebration). The confessor, the Franciscan priest, was from Connecticut, and we spent a few moments discussing catholic schools and churches in New York City.
Visiting a service on a weekday that is not a holy day is something I should do more often. The “experience” is quite different than Sundays or holy days. Let me say I do not visit churches or go to service seeking an “experience” though secretly I do sometimes yearn for the grace of spiritual consolations[i] more so than what is deserved or for what I am ready to receive. Mass for me is living prayer and an opportunity for further discernment and conversation with God directly or through the mystery of the Eucharist, Scripture readings, the Holy Spirit, and the congregation of the faithful. More importantly, perhaps is Mass provided me with an opportunity to encounter myself by giving a time and place outside secular time and pressures.
Yesterday a.m. mass celebrated with about twenty people. I cannot say these people were or are better Catholics or holier Catholics than those attending on required days of observance. For all I know, they could of all just rolled out of a local shelter or rehab facility and were merely seeking refuge on this cold morning! I can say that they collectively possessed an aura of spirituality and intensity that was tangible and present. That presence and sharing the mass with them feeds my spirit. About a quarter of them were at the confession service earlier that a.m. My judging mind could not imagine they needed confession at all based on their outward projections of warmth and serenity!
A significant portion of the sermon focused on seeking wisdom rather than foolishness. We can find foolishness even in our pursuit of spirituality. We could, for example, go looking for God in all the wrong places, delving into numerous theological treatises, and all the while miss who the artisan is who provided us all that is to begin our journey of questing for God. We can get so busy on our “I” finding God that we can miss the evident truth and his presence wherever we are right now:
1 Yes, naturally stupid are all who are unaware of God, and who, from good things seen, have not been able to discover Him-who-is, or, by studying the works, have not recognised the Artificer. (Wisdom, Chapter 13)
I did not have to leave my hotel room to find God. I did not have to stand outside the church in the rain because I arrived early yesterday morning. I did not have to be greeted by a warm, Hispanic man who opened the church doors that a.m. or witness an elderly lady who carrying a chair, rags, and polish cleaner was quietly attending to the details of this majestic church. Wherever I am, God is, and all I have to do is seek his presence.
And yet, I personally, not having the spiritual discipline of hermetic monks nor the spiritual calling to be in constant contemplative prayer, require high maintenance spiritually due to my characterological flaws and the profoundly flawed secular society in which I live. I am envious of those who seemingly do not need spiritual booster shots! Add envy to the characterological flaw list!
A quiet hour or so visiting a minor Basilica provided me a place to have gratitude for the many blessings in my life, a place to pause life and appreciate this moment and turning point of yet another bend in the road of my spiritual journey, and the gift of two Catholic Sacraments (Confession and the Holy Eucharistic Mass).
Returning that evening to my hotel room, I was reminded that God is never far away. The lights are always on. As it turns out, my room has a view of the Basilica. God is not contained within those walls. It is I who must-visit houses of worship to contain my mind and my actions to seek wisdom and minimize foolishness.
The wisdom imparted by the Franciscan priest was to get plenty of rest, eat well, have patience with self and others, and pray. We are and can expect to be imperfect, but we must strive with good intentions and take care of ourselves, for when we are weak we are more prone to error.
The House of Worship is where you are – and if you cannot find it where you are – there is a literal house of worship built with bricks and mortar nearby where you can find yourself and your God.
Thanks for visiting and reading!