Yesterday about mid-afternoon, I received a call. Not a call on the phone that is so apart of my job and my life these days.
Something in my heart went off and I answered it. I felt an overwhelming desire and need to go seek out peace and solace at St. James Cathedral.
If any of you really know me, you know that I just can't stop. I can't relax, and I have to be doing something on a constant basis. It is really hard for me to just sit and do nothing. I'm not quite sure why it goes against my nature, it just does. My mind is always going, whether it is full of thoughts, or just playing music, everything with me is constant. I was really worried that I would end up sitting in the cathedral fidgeting, humming, tapping my feet, or heaven knows what else. I didn't though.
I got off work early yesterday. At three I nervously boarded a bus up towards first hill and up towards the cathedral. On the bus about a million thoughts were running through my head. It was the first time in a while that they were running so fast that I didn't even have time to focus on them. It was like just catching glimpses of things before the next image would come into view. I'm not quite sure what to make of that phenomenon, as it has never quite happened like that to me before. The bus ride was short, my thoughts were long.
When I got off the bus, I noticed that the sky was that shade of grey that I liked and that it matched the colour of the cigarette smoke that I exhaled out of my lungs. I'm not sure if it was a comfort thing or what. I liked it though, and then remembered that I was now smoking during the week, and that wasn't a good habit to get into. Pre-guilt guilt I suppose. I walked the block from the bus stop to the cathedral pretty slowly, worried that if I didn't finish my cigarette with enough time to air out that I would smell up the entire place. I'm pretty sure that God's house is a smoke free environment, well aside from the incense.
Walking up the steps, I knew one of two things was going to happen. I was either going to just sit in the pew and stare, not moved by anything, just numb to the fact that surrounding me was God and that I couldn't even care to notice that his arms were around me. The second, I was going to sit in the pew and weep, sob, cry and wonder why I wanted to subject myself to the embarrassment of being in a public place while I was in so much emotional pain. Neither happened...well to the extent that I believed.
I pulled open the great door of the cathedral and was immediately overcome. So quiet, gentle and dark. The candles in the church could be seen through the frosted glass of the inner doors leading to the nave. I crossed myself using the holy water and walked ever so gently and opened the doors. There were maybe 5 or so people sitting in the vast space and a few others shuffling around in the near darkness. Along the edges, all these shrines to Saints and all the votives glowing ever so softly. I swear the Infant of Prague smiled at me, His gold robes gleaming. I once again crossed myself, this time using the water from the baptismal font. The water moving against the side and then coming back to hit my finger. I didn't want to walk far, so I picked a pew near the back, went down on one knee, and crossed myself again. I sat.
I was worried that nothing was going to happen. My worst fear was that I was going to be so far removed from my faith that it wouldn't move me, that it was too late to feel anymore. Doomed. Without warning it started. Not the hysterics, but the tears. Here I was in God's house and he was welcoming me. Despite my separation, the lies I told, the guilt I tried not to feel, I felt love. The tears continued to fall, but ever so silently. Falling past my cheeks and hitting my collarbone, sliding down to where I could not reach. I didn't try to wipe them away, but let them descend where they would, it really didn't matter. The emotions came in waves. I would weep for a bit, and then stop. Looking around at all the wonderful, beautiful things that surrounded me. It would start again, and then stop. Ebbing and flowing with not even a hint of reason to it. I would look up to the dome over the alter, where the grey sky would gleam through the oculus dei (eye of God) and I would cry even more. I'm not sure if it was just the mere act of looking up and seeing something that wasn't there, or why certain emotions would pass through me at that point. Inscribed on the Oculus Dei is this, "I am in your Midst as one who serves" (Luke 22).
After sniffling and crying in the pew, I thought it was time to pay a visit to the Shrine of The Blessed Virgin Mary. Perhaps a little background is in order here.
It started when I was 13 or so. I became fascinated with the BVM. (Blessed Virgin Mary) I started collecting statues, and seeing her image everywhere. It was a calling of sorts. My collection got to be vast, but it all started with a small Our Lady of Fatima statue that I picked up in a shop on Granville Street in Vancouver called, "Cheap Thrills". (Of all names it could've had...) She was beautiful, and she was mine. Catholic imagery fascinated me to no end. I couldn't get enough. One of my good friends Michelle was Catholic and I would bombard here with these questions about her religion every time I saw her. I even went with her one night after 9-11 to pray for the world outside of Immaculate Conception parish in Delta. Kneeling and placing my hands on the feet of the Blessed Virgin and praying for some sort of end to the suffering. It got to the point where my gifts for my birthday were largely Catholic related. I believe that she saw me through my life, a protectress of some sort. Always showing up when I needed her the most. When I found out that my husband to be was Catholic, I took it as my final sign, that yes I was meant to be Catholic too. (The details on the process of becoming Catholic I will save for another post.)
The Marian shrine in the Cathedral is amazing, and can only be described by photos. http://www.stjames-cathedral.org/Tour/default.htm The smell of beeswax is amazing, and it is dark, starry and solemn. If any part of the cathedral is more "goth", I beg to differ. It was here that I knelt at the feet of my namesake, and asked her to please intercede on my behalf. I knew that she would, and that she was happy to see me. That I could swallow my pride long enough, to be there, to be humble, and to be home. Tears fell again, washing down my face. Before I left, I lit a candle for myself, and for another. Placed my tears on her feet, and slowly walked out.
When I exited the Cathedral, it was like coming out of the womb, or how I would imagine it would be. Everything is so dark and quiet...peaceful. Then you are thrust into the light, the noise and forced to confront your own mortality. That was what it was like, I was peaceful and I daresay relaxed, and then the world came up around me again, and I came full circle.
On the way home I stopped for a bottle of wine, it was a Syrah from the Columbia Valley called, wait for it...Genesis.