Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to make a pilgrimage to Rome with one of our parishes. The trip struck me in many different ways, two that I’ll blog about here.
The first was the awe-inspiring beauty of the churches there. The picture to the right is just one of the many pictures I took in Rome…my picture-taking slowed after the first three days because there was just too much beauty to take it!
Additional, after a while many of the churches seemed more like museums. About half the churches did not have the Blessed Sacrament present, most buzzed with tourists doing their best to keep quiet, and amid the gilded enormity of the spaces, it was hard to find an intimate space in which to pray.
Obviously I don’t say this to criticize these artistic masterpieces or their preservation in any way. I just think that I was expecting to be struck in a more reverent, spiritual way by these buildings.
Surprisingly this “disappointment” made me appreciate our little chapel here at the Central Pastoral Administration building of the Archdiocese. Anyone who has heard me talk about this chapel knows how little I care for its design. Picture a big empty box, plain brick walls, angular color-block stained-glass windows, spotty lighting, grayish carpet, and our lovely 70s-era avocado-green leather kneelers.
But ya know what? Even in that artless room, I feel closer to Him than I did standing in the exquisite St. Paul Outside the Wall. Why? Because Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament! And in the afternoons when I go to pray, I know He is there for me…regardless of how ugly the kneelers are.
My Lord and my God, I firmly believe that you are here, that you see me, that you hear me.
I adore you with profound reverence; I ask you for pardon of my sins and grace to make this time of prayer fruitful.
My Mother Immaculate, Saint Joseph my father and lord, my Guardian Angel intercede for me.
-Handbook of Prayers
4 Replies to “Appreciating the Blessed Sacrament”
I was in Carmen de Playa, Mexico a year or so ago. On the main drag — a long pedestrianized shopping and restaurant street — they have a quite lovely, simple and modern adoration chapel. The front, facing the street, is mostly glass so one can see right in. I didn’t see any indication that Mass was said there on any regular schedule. But locals and tourists would stop by for a few minutes of prayer before the Sacrament. It was all very nice.
I can’t speak for every chiesa in Roma, but S. Paolo fuori le Mura (the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls) does have a Blessed Sacrament chapel to the left of the apse behind the main altar (over which is the grave of St. Paul).
It does seem to me that spectacular (or even just large and lavishly decorated) architecture has the opposite of its intended effect all to often. Although I have visited the Basilica of the Shrine of the IC here in DC for daily mass and events like graduations before, this last week I went there for Sunday Mass for the first time. Unfortunately, I felt more like I was at a show than in a celebration of Eucharist and worship. I do not really understand the impulse that leads to large church buildings, when the purpose of those buildings is supposed to be a place for fostering community and worshiping together, not just as part of a crowd. There are some churches that somehow magage both to inspire awe and reverence through their granduer, and feel intimate at the same time. But those are unfortunately rare (in my opinion.) Give me a small chapel anytime.
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