Have you ever not seen something right in front of your eyes?
We’ve all experienced not remembering where we laid a book we wanted to read or forgotten where we set a phone or even our wallet (with all of our credit cards!) only to find them in plain view.
But have you ever missed seeing something as large as a basilica?
Ever since I was a child in central New York and an adult living at times in New England, I’ve been visiting churches throughout Montreal, a beautiful continental city in Quebec with a long and illustrious religious tradition and history and famous for its many beautiful churches.
In the past, we’ve had the chance to attend Mass and/or pray at beautiful churches in the city nicknamed the “City of Saints” or the “ville aux cent clochers” (city of a hundred bell towers):
But when we ran into a friend and Montreal resident and talked about our favorite churches there, he asked us why we didn’t mention St. Patrick’s Basilica.
We responded that we had no idea that there was yet another basilica in the city limits and wondered out loud where the archdiocese was hiding it! He calmly told us it was on one of the busiest streets in the city.
We couldn’t quite believe that we missed seeing the impressive gothic revival church with a steeple that stretches more than 225 feet high on a street we’ve traveled literally dozens of times. But what a find!
The 12:30 p.m. liturgy we attended was predictably in English—easier for us to understand—rather than the usual French for the other churches we usually visit, with a multi-cultural congregation in attendance (there were several baptisms planned for Filipino-Canadian community members after Mass).
But the architecture was spectacular. The 164-year-old church, known for its historic links to the then Irish immigrant community and the oldest English-speaking Roman Catholic Church in Montreal, features an interior heavily ornamented with motifs that combine a French fleur de lys and Irish shamrocks, more than 80-foot-long pine pillars, three altars, 150 oil paintings of saints and elaborate sanctuary decorations.
While we love our central Florida Catholic parish community, the chance to visit other churches with different cultural sensibilities, traditions and deep histories of faith really gives us a sense that we are, indeed, connected universally as church.
Let me know if you’ve had a chance to visit churches away from home, where you’ve visited and what your experiences were.
As you make plans to visit churches in your community or when you are travelling away from home on business or vacation, you may want to read two new books on the Eucharist: the St. Anthony Messenger Press Catholic Update Guide to the Mass, which is ideal for anyone returning to the practice of the faith and those who want to know more about the Mass, and the Servant Books Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers, in which author Mike Aquilina explains the meaning behind the prayers and practices central to Catholic worship.
Photos by Mark Lombard of St. Patrick’s Basilica, Montreal, Canada.