Our children always comment (or complain depending on how you look at it) that whenever and wherever we are on holiday we will end up in a cathedral, a church or a graveyard at some point of the trip. That was certainly true this year when we went to Italy. From little quiet chapels in villages along Lake Como to the enormous beauty of Il Duomo, the Cathedral of Milan, we stopped and gazed and lit a candle or two. Somehow that comes naturally on holiday. We expect to take time, to read the guide book, to explore and enjoy. Strange how we don’t do that at home.
Shortly after we returned to Donegal a cousin of my husband’s came to stay. Jim announced that while he was here he wanted to see the cathedral. Being good hosts we made sure that he got his wish and we accompanied Jim on his visit. This is not our parish church but we are very familiar with it nonetheless. Or are we?
That day with Jim we became visitors in our own home place. It was unintentional, but somehow having looked up some details about the Harry Clarke stained glass windows and finding a guide book at the back of the cathedral, we began to see this familiar building with fresh eyes.
We went up along the side of the sanctuary. Who knew that the ceiling above where the folk group sits is so beautiful? We continued on around the back of the altar to the shrine to Our Lady noting the many beautiful paintings on the walls – little gems of wonder that we had never known were there.
I was struck by the richness and beauty of the cathedral. It seemed strange that we had never done this before. There was artistry and elegance waiting quietly to be discovered, but that would only happen if we stepped outside of the usual rush of life and took the time to gaze, to raise our eyes, to be inspired by the skill of those who crafted this beautiful place. Thank God Jim wanted to see the cathedral or we may never have noticed it!
I was struck by that beauty again a few weeks later at the ordination of our new bishop, Dr Alan McGuckian. There was a vibrancy, an energy about the whole ceremony and with people there from every parish in the diocese there was a real sense for me of the cathedral coming into its own and being the mother church bringing forth new life.
In all our lives we can see the same people, places, events day in, day out and never really see them at all. We needed to become pilgrims in our own cathedral before we actually noticed the beauty of it. I think the same can be said for life.
Sometimes we are too caught up in the routines and ruts of life to notice what is actually in front of us. I can be tired with working, frustrated with bills, rushing between commitments – and never taking time to stop, and gaze and raise my eyes to see the beauty and artistry that are here. Maybe I need to become a pilgrim in my own life. How would my life look to another, someone less hassled and busy? I think they would see the beauty of relationships, gentleness, love, little things that speak of so much more.
I think they would notice blessings like warmth, security, good food on the table and laughter, lots of laughter and chat and craic. There is an artistry and beauty in family life that is made up of very ordinary, everyday elements. What we need is to take time, to let our thoughts wander like a pilgrim through the fabric of our day and to notice, just that, notice the blessings that are there.