it’s only been three days and i already feel quite settled into my little lenten practice. to read more about how i chose the practice of visiting a cathedral for 40 days in lent read yesterday’s post here.
i’m not really sure yet how i want to share with you all my experiences. i have decided to post every saturday in lent, reflecting on the past week (or in today’s case, three days). other than that, i know nothing. i suppose i will just let it come. i am taking photos every day and spednign some time writing while i am there. so, i’ll let my images and words lead the way, trusting that i’ll know if i want to just share the photos, or if i want to write a lot. it all depends on the experiences and inspiration i feel.
so, let’s get on with the first week!
i had no idea that this was going to be a 40 day challenge on ash wednesday, my first day. i just went in so i could have somewhere to spend a few moments in silence as a way to mark the beginning of my lenten journey.
it was while i sat in the cathedral, in the silence, and yet part of a community of individuals who had all gathered for one reason or another, that i felt the challenge rise up out of me. it just came to me. and it felt right. so, on that first day, i committed myself to returned every day, monday through friday from now until good friday (april 18).
i also thought a bit about my mortality – which is what we focus on on ash wednesday. it’s a great day to ask some questions:
- am i living my life to the fullest?!
- am i living as fully as possible as who I am, true to myself?
- how should i best live?
- am i connected to that spirit that connects us all?
- how can i best be true to me and my calling/destiny/dreams?
- how can i best love and serve others?
i arrived midday and there was a noticeable difference. while there was no service going on, there were people everywhere. a few groups of 4 or 5 people. individuals. tourists. it was still silent, but that was a little buzz of activity and voices. it felt very active and alive. i sat down in the pew, but i soon felt drawn to the far left corner down front, a little to the side, off of the sanctuary. i saw candles burning and without hesitation, i gathered my things and went to this little chapel area.
i was first struck by a statue of a woman. it read “fatima” on a engraving beneath the woman. and then, as i looked around, there were images of women all around me. it felt powerful. holy. divine. i stood in front of the fatima statue for a while, and then moved to a chair in front of an altar. sitting there, i realized that i heard a woman’s voice, singing the lyrics, “no turning back, no turning back.” it was a woman working in a room off of the chapel, someone who was part of the congregation i suppose. i never saw her emerge from whatever room she was in, though. she just sang as i sat by the altar. so peaceful.
i wondered what the message might be that i might be receiving. but, i don’t know what it is yet. i am certain, though, that something will be revealed.
i turned back to the statue of fatima, bowed to her, and then turned and left. completely inspired. knowing that this little corner in the sanctuary is a place i will return to during my challenge. there is much more for me there.
(fatima is a title for the Blessed Virgin Mary based on reported apparitions to three shepherd children at Fátima, Portugal, on the thirteenth day of six consecutive months in 1917, beginning on May 13. lúcia , one of the children, described seeing a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun”. it is believed that the visions of mary hold secrets, callings, and inspiration).
day three was friday. it was very, very quiet in the cathedral. there were people scattered about, but all were sitting, standing, or walking individually.
my intention was to do the stations of the cross on fridays, but when i sat down, i didn’t think of it… until, I looked forward and saw some white shadow boxes on the walls. turning around, I realized that they went all the way around me, in a circle. and that there were 14. these were the stations of the cross, the story of good friday, of jesus’ betrayal and execution before me.
so, I got up from my pew bench and made my way down front, looked up to the left and assumed it would be the first station. it was. so I spent about 20 min walking around the circular sanctuary looking up at each one of the 14 shadowboxes. one at a time. letting the story sink into me, open to hearing whatever the universe wanted to say to me.
what I heard in my soul, as I looked at the statues of jesus walking, falling, helping, and walking again, as he was led to his execution was a reminder to never give up, to never give in. in the midst of all of life, to always extend a hand to others, to always love extravagantly. to be true to my calling, to always fight for who i am.
i noticed a man in the chapel to the right of the sanctuary. sitting in a chair, quietly, and alone. as I was at the last station, he got up to leave and I noticed he was crippled, dragging his right leg behind him and unable to use his right arm. he was of hispanic origin. as he made his way down the center aisle to leave, he turned and walked between two pews just to the left of me (I was now sitting in my pew bench again on the right side of the aisle). and then I realized something…
while I had been circling the stations of the cross, I noticed a crutch leaning up against the wall. i snapped a photo of it because it was so simple and yet so poignant. this man that I watched, was going to get his crutch on the way out.
I turned back to the front of the sanctuary from my seat and my eyes began to tear up. and it hit me strongly… everyone here is seeking something. we all are seeking something, aren’t we?.
the clock in the bell tower struck 11 and I finished up my meditation time. yes, I have come to seek something myself. I suppose it is to seek to nurture my connection with the divine, which lives within each of us.
today, i feel that i have done just that. and it has been amazing. I walked. listened. watched. felt. i’ve been comforted and inspired. i am certain that these 40 days in a cathedral will be a beautiful gift of inner reflection, which will lead to an outer transformation.