i did it, friends. i made it to the cathedral/basilica every day this week. being committed and following through is such a powerful feeling. there were no major personal revelations or anything, but it was a chance to experience the joy of solitude in the midst of community. let me explain…
on monday i decided that i would head over to the little chapel off to the right of the sanctuary. it is a very intimate space, with only 4 chairs set up – two on either side of a walkway – facing an altar. there is also a bench behind the chairs. there are candles all around the little chapel, and i’ve come to understand that people use this space more than any other place in the sanctuary for individual devotion and prayer.
i must say that i felt a bit awkward walking up to the chapel, wondering where i was going to sit. i didn’t want to invade anyone’s personal space. and i didn’t want people judging me because not only do i sit quietly, but i take photos as well (obviously). anyway, i snagged one of the two chairs on the right side. there was a woman in one of the chairs to the left, and a woman at the little altar in front of her. directly to my right there were some pillar candles burning, and i hoped that i wouldn’t set the whole place on fire as i peeled off my jacket and scarf.
i sat down in the chair and began snapping a few photos of the space. on a little kneeling bench in front of me, something caught my eye. it was a purple and white plastic rosary. just left there, hanging right in front of me. taking it as a sign, i picked it up from its place and held it in my hand, twirling the beads through my fingers as i meditated.
as i held the beads and thought about many of you, i realized that my uncomfortable-ness at being so close to others wasn’t weird or strange at all. in fact, those moments of personal solitude in the presence of others who were also having their own moments of solitude, was a powerful, bonding moment. there was a silent energy moving between us, a spirit of love and connectedness, simply because we were humans seeking silence and peace together. and then, the idea of sharing that space with others became a beautiful gift.
the theme of a community of silent meditators continued into tuesday. when i opened to door to the basilica, i heard a voice and i realized that i entered in the middle of a service (they have daily mass around noon). i slipped quietly into a back pew and listened. it took only a few minutes before the priest began reciting the liturgy for holy communion. as a christian, i knew that i could take part, but i decided to stay in my seat. not as a refusal of this ritual, but more as a continuation of my reasoning for entering the basilica every day – for meditation and silence. it was still quite powerful to observe and quietly be a part of this community. what a great change from my regular routine.
i admit that i began this little lenten journey with the hopes of finding some discipline within myself which would ultimately lead to some sort of transformation or growth. and i still think about that – it’s still a goal. but, ultimately, that meant that i was thinking only of myself.
on wednesday, my whole idea/purpose of this 40 day challenge changed. i entered the sanctuary and headed to the chapel to the left, the chapel dedicated to mary, mother of jesus. it’s a place where i feel the power of women – like some sort of solidarity. i sat down in a chair and before i knew it, another woman sat down right beside me in the other chair (there are only 2). we are very close to each other, and yet we never really acknowledged one another. still, it was comforting and amazing. seeing her devotion. wondering why she was there. and then, just sharing that space with her.
it was then, in that silence as i meditated through my list of intercessions for others, that i realized something… this 40 day journey is not about me. it’s about you all. it’s about others. it’s about the fact that you and i and everyone else are all connected. it about learning to love and think of others. it’s about how to support one another – whether we know each other or not, whether we even know what’s going on with each other. it’s simply about being present with each other. in mind and in spirit.
thursday was the first day of spring. and guess what greeted me when i walked up to the basilica? a cute little birdie landed on the church’s sign just as i passed. such a perfect greeting, i thought.
i opened the door and walked in and was struck by the complete silence. i know that this place is silent every day, but this was different. it was poignant. usually there is some murmuring going on, or people walking, or some kind of little bit of busy noise. but, today, there was nothing. utter, total silence. and it was beautiful.
i slid into a pew bench toward the back and noticed that the sun streaming in the east stained-glass windows. with the silence and the sun, today, the basilica felt like home. and my soul was filled with peace and comfort.
friday was the total opposite of thursday. i walked in and right away saw about 6 people sitting in a back pew bench, with – since the basilica is in the middle of downtown and is a unique architectural building, it is a popular tourist spot. there was a man standing in front of the bench talking. it was immediately obvious that it was a tour. the man spoke with a regular conversational volume, which meant that his voice carried through the entire basilica, bouncing off the round walls. and, while his voice was loud, it was not disturbing. i found my place, sat down, and enjoyed the moments. however, i was a bit distracted every now and then because the tour guide was sharing some pretty interesting information. still, i found a nice balance between focusing on my meditation and listening to the guide. more than anything, though, i was happy to share the space with others.
at the end of the week, i felt so inspired, realizing that the entire week had been one that i spent alone in the basilica; and yet, i was never actually alone. what a powerful thing it is for us to be in community with one another. thinking of you all… and wishing you a beautiful, lovely sunday.