the women of notre-dame basilica, montréal

I love to visit grand churches, and have visited many in my travels. I am quite easily impressed. I am no longer easily inspired. Most cathedrals and basilicas are awesome in their grandeur and magnificence. Not all move my heart and soul.

St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is a classic example. The jewel of the city’s landscape, it stood as a beacon of hope to the British people during the dark days of WWII bombings. When I first saw it, I had the lovely image of Mary Poppins and the woman feeding the birds on its steps. Inside the Cathedral, though, I was overpowered by the presence of monument after monument, memorial after memorial to military leaders and politicians. Rather than soaring with the glory of God, the mind was cluttered with extravagant attempts at glorifying men.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome still impresses me with its grandeur. No photo or film can do justice to its size. While I feel a connection to its history, it doesn’t inspire me.

St. John Lateran has a similar effect. Walking down the center aisle, the massive statuary depicting the twelve apostles doesn’t encourage affection for these men. Rather, the height and weight towering over you is oppressive.

This past weekend, I visited a Basilica that did impress and inspire me; the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montréal. We attended the 11:00 Mass, not knowing that a special celebration was taking place to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the founder of Montréal. A military band marched up the street to the Basilica. The sanctuary was filled with bishops and priests. A long list of present dignitaries was read.

The Mass itself was well orchestrated with all the requisite protocol for such an auspicious occasion. While bishops and priests sat, the choir and organ soared. The glorious sounds filled the blue and gold interior. It was a spectacle to hearken and to behold. But the inspiration came after.

Walking around the now empty church, I was struck by the stained glass windows, paintings and statues. Rather than depicting biblical scenes, they told the history of Montreal. Numerous depictions of religious women showed to the world the central role they played in the founding of our country.

They included,

  • St. Marguerite d´Youville, founder of the Order of Sisters of Charity of Montréal, or the Grey Nuns.
  • Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montréal.
  • Blessed Mother Marie-Rose Durocher, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (the Sisters who educated me in high school)
  • Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lily of the Mohawks” who will be canonized this October.

I tried to take as many pictures as I could, until I was stopped abruptly by a man who told me I was allowed to “go up and enjoy the pictures” but not to photograph them.

Ah, but I now have some photos.  I can remember them, and share the inspiration of countless women who built this great country by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, educating the young, and healing the sick. God bless them and all the women who follow in their foot-steps to this day.

thoughts on Lefebvrites and the LCWR

Catholic news sites and discussion boards have been hopping these past 24 hours. Two major stories were head-lined yesterday at the National Catholic Reporter.

The first, by John Allen, was titled Lefebvrite schism may be nearing an end. According to the story, the Vatican confirmed Wednesday that the Society of St. Pius X, the traditionalist movement founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, has responded to a “doctrinal preamble” presented in September as a precondition for reunion with the Catholic Church. With only minor concessions remaining, formal readmission of the Society of St. Pius X into full communion with Rome is probable.

The second news came at noon. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ordered the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the largest leadership organization for U.S. women religious, to reform its statutes, programs and affiliations to conform more closely to “the teachings and discipline of the Church.”. The news was announced in a press release Wednesday morning from the U.S. bishops’ conference. It was accompanied by an eight-page document of the doctrinal congregation and a one-page statement from Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the congregation.

This morning, another NCR article, LCWR ‘stunned’ by Vatican’s latest move, describes not only the shock of the women at LCWR, but also their disappointment at not being allowed to share the news with their members before it became public.

Commentaries and discussion boards are heating up with opinions on these two stories. As usual, the voices are easily categorized by ideology.

Continue reading “thoughts on Lefebvrites and the LCWR”

nuns`habits and baseball uniforms?

provided by Microsoft

This blog is almost a year old. It`s purpose is to promote dialogue and not debate in an increasingly polarized church and society. Except for a lively discussion in the early weeks around liturgical music, the comments have come mostly from kindred spirits. I have not heard from too many voices who think differently than I. Until yesterday.

The discussion board settings require me to approve the first comment made by a new reader before it is published. If approved, subsequent comments will be automatically published to the site. Comments can be deleted by the blog owner at any time.

For some unknown reason, the January 15 post titled nuns`veils, simply a habit? continues to get several clicks a week. Yesterday, the following comment on this post showed up in my mail-box, awaiting approval,

The baseball team the Yankees is not to identify with the crowd and wear “civies”; I find it ironically superficial for nuns to take off a habit and veil and break the symbolic union with nuns who have passed on—this symbolic clothing points towards mystery and, therefore, is an immediate reminder of God. Instead, you wear what points towards the secular.
It is incredibly stupid to dedicate a life towards God and not mirror it in your clothing. Padre Pio in the hours before his death refused to take off his habit in order to breathe better. To me, nuns without habits or veils are like the pride of the Yankees dismissed by removing your baseball uniform and telling Babe Ruth to go take a walk. Modern spirituality continues to reveal a symbolic walk away from mystery, tradition, and union with all those who went before. Yuk!

Ah, a voice that doesn`t agree with me! A voice that I don`t agree with! I clicked the approve comment button. It would be hypocritical of me not to. I believe that our church and world is big enough to allow a diversity of views. The key to dialogue and not debate is to discuss those views in a reasonable and respectful manner. While I don`t agree with the reasoning of this gentleman, he has the right to express his opinion.

Please click on the post to join in the dialogue.