Last weekend, after I gave the homily at an Evensong service at an Episcopal church, a woman stopped me and told me that she had saved a column I once wrote from Paris about Notre Dame Cathedral. She alleged that she loved the piece and has shared it with others.
In fact, the piece is contained on page 23 of my first book, A Gift of Meaning, which still is available on Amazon.com or can be ordered through a local bookstore, such as Rainy Day in suburban Kansas City.
It's always a pleasant surprise for a writer to find a reader who not only liked something once written but who has actually saved the words.
I was thinking about all of that the other day when I came upon this collection of cathedral photos on Beliefnet.com. Have a look at the astonishing variety of sacred structures that people have been to the glory of God -- at least in theory that's why they're built.
But, of course, because human motives are complicated and, well, mixed, no doubt some cathedrals rose for other reasons, too.
And yet for whatever reason they exist, they can send the human spirit soaring. I've never done a full tour of Europe's cathedrals, though I've been in several as well as, say, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the Episcopal and Catholic cathedrals in Downtown Kansas City. (The photo here today is one I took of the interior of the gorgeous Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City.)
I used to think it was a waste of resources to put huge amounts of money into building such edifices, but I've mostly changed my mind. I see them now as works of art, as homage to the divine, as what the Celts call "thin places" where the space between heaven and earth narrows to let us taste the eternal.
Cathedrals are the architectural equivalents of hymns, of liturgical dance, of sweeping prayer into what people of faith hope is not the abyss.
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A SPEECH FOR THE AGES?
A British journalist writes here that Pope Benedict XVI's speech at Westminster Hall in England on Friday was an example of his brilliant mind. Take a look for yourself at the text (scroll down a bit on the page to which I'm linking you) and see if you agree. I've always thought B-16 extraordinarily intelligent and a good thinker. As I've said before, I'm less impressed with his skill in shaping his thoughts precisely, with the result that he's sometimes offensive when he probably doesn't mean to me.