” I do not understand
the mystery of GRACE-
only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us
where it found us ”
~ Anne Lamott
Slowly I made my way to the Basilica that morning, I had seen the distinctive green dome making a statement in the St.Louis skyline, as we entered the city the previous day, not knowing what it was, I mentally made a note to visit this place when I found out what it was. Little did I know, it was bang opposite where we stayed in the city during our trip there, this time. I had passed by this city, many a time in the past, but never once stayed in this city ….so that morning when I crossed the street,to make my way to the Cathedral Basilica, I was excited to see what was inside the Romanesque architecture made with granite walls , rose windows and mighty towers. The main dome rested on an elevated drum pierced by Romanesque windows, the pitched roof covered in brilliant green tiles a prominent sight that one could not miss. Brilliant sunlight flooded every leaf and flower that grew along the path filling my soul with excitement as I walked towards the entry way.
Do you see them, them rays ? ……masked as shiny light, those tiptoeing angels, sprinkling their magic all around in rainbow colors ?? I forgot to breathe, it seemed like , there was no one else on the street, time stood still, a tranquil peace filled the air, for me to absorb all that magic in, reaffirming what I felt deep within ….
Grace encircled the space with it’s magic, words fail and you are stuck with the wonderment of it all , each ray of light holds the rainbow within….. Who put them there , on a clear sunny day ? The Good Shepherd surely knows his lambs, I thought , as I walked towards the entrance to the Basilica….
Having never been into a Basilica before, belonging to a different faith, not knowing the customs to follow, I paused at the entry way, wondering if it was OK to walk in, but the desire in me to see this place was so great, I pushed the door open…..
It opened ever so gently, not a creak….what greeted me inside took my breath away..
A long corridor with gold paint & etching on the roof,greeted me…. it was so mesmerizing that I stood rooted to the spot and gazed and gazed, until I heard a movement behind the entry desk , I had not noticed until then, a man dressed in saintly robes nodded kindly ushering us, as if to say, “It’s OK, to stand and gaze” and I gazed some more…. It was later that I came to know that this was the largest collections of mosaics in the world, created by 20 different artists covering 83,000 square feet, containing 41.5 million pieces of glass tessare employing over 7000 colors, began in 1912 and completed in 1988.
It took me a while to come to my senses and look further inside and remember where I was.There was no one else inside, just me , my child and the Almighty ! I had only wanted to see what was inside, but suddenly a tear seemed to sting at the corner of my eyes….what a glorious welcome, the Divine has laid in front of me, I thought as I gently made my way inside, he welcomed us with open arms, so we had no other interruptions. I filled my heart with the beautiful sight, taking in as much as my senses could absorb….
A strange peace filled me,like invisible giant arms hugged me in that space, the PRESENCE was certainly felt, slowly I walked towards the altar taking in all the beauty and imagining all the love and prayers that must have gone into building this house of God. Each one of us, who enters this holy space envisions the Almighty in their own making and he silently listens to them all, both man and the chirping bird outside,answering their prayers at the appropriate time….great indeed is his kingdom,greater still his heart, I thought.
As I walked thru the aisles heading to the altar, I thought of the millions of prayers that must have been uttered on these benches on bent knees,heavy hearts and wet eyes, for healing ,happiness and good health, like the sun rays that seemed to stream into every corner of the Basilica, filling the room with LIGHT, so must be the blessings filling lives each day…….
The splendid woodwork on the prayer benches spoke volumes, the Holy Bible was tucked in front of each bench, some with worn pages, some ear marked, yet each page turned with faith and trust in the Divine plan, yet to unfold………..
On either side of the main altar stood long passageways, radiating light…..
The LIGHT that entered the Basilica seemed to cascade a million fold thru those amazing glass art windows, scattering blessings all around, chasing darkness away…
The pillars stood tall on either side,majestically witnessing perhaps for many years all the souls that came to pray under this roof. A teacher once explained to me in my earlier days, while describing the pillars in a temple, she said ” These pillars hold the sacredness of the millions of chants that might have been recited under this very roof, chants that heal, nourish & protect” Chants/Hymns are believed to be positive vibrations carrying energy, you see they have the power to heal, so for me pillars always held deep meaning.
It was then, that I looked up at the majestically domes, such splendor such beauty….
I remember being told, in a church you light candles to offer your prayers and so we did ….
The picture of Mother Mary has always held a place in my heart, perhaps the kindness that shone thru her eyes(reading Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estes, book about Our Lady of Gaudeloupe , intensified the understanding) she indeed is a blessed Mother to bring this child to the world…..and I stood at her feet, awed by her strength & kindness.Something about this carving gave me spirit bumps, I stood there for a long time, words failed….
Hearing footsteps beside me as I prayed, I turned around an old man stood beside me, he looked like the janitor who cleaned the wood work, had a dust cloth in his hand, he greeted us kindly and said, “Lady , you have come in the Blessed season of Easter, don’t forget to get your blessing, do visit the Blessed Sacrament Chapel on your right, before you leave, I nodded in gratitude and just like he came, he disappeared.
I walked into the chapel, which was practically empty except for a nun kneeling in the front row deep in prayer, I sat a few rows behind her making sure I tiptoed in , not to disturb her prayer. Just like in any other sacred place, I asked the Divine to show me a sign of his presence, nothing happened for a long time, I waited…suddenly the nun reached into her habit to get something out, I thought perhaps her rosary beads ? She pulled out a chapstick and applied it gently to her lips, while continuing to pray, something about it brought a big smile to my face…we are ALL human after all , a sign enough,from above for me, coz I always believed in a God with a sense of humor, the fear creating ,punishing God was not for me, how else would I have believed the Divine’s presence here ?
From what seemed like a long time, I stepped out in the cool breeze of the morning, thankful that I visited this place, admiring the flowers that grew along the walls of this beautiful place, I suddenly noticed….
….”An Angel Of Harmony” with wings made of wind chimes, I stood beneath the statue looking up at the bright blue sky, the joy & happiness I felt on visiting this place…. a sudden gust of wind, set the chimes in motion, musical as it was, it completed the quote for me, ” I do not understand the mystery of grace, only that it never leaves us in the place that it found us ” ~ Anne Lamott.