Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Prayer in awe

By John Andrews
Director of the diocesan Department of Communications

I made a short trip to Washington D.C. this week to join a group of faith leaders in lobbying federal legislators to reform our immigration laws. Our aim was to show the power of the faith community, united in its call for reform.

But I experienced the power of faith in a different way on this trip, as well. Staying at the Theological College I was just across Michigan Avenue from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The credentials of this place, which I admit I was not fully aware of before I arrived, are incredible. It is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America. It has the largest collection of contemporary Christian art in the United States. It contains over 60 chapels and oratories. And there I was, staying right across the street. Talk about dumb luck.

My first morning in town I ventured over for Mass, held in the Crypt Church in the lower floor of the Shrine. On my way to the church, I wandered through the “Hall of Memories,” thousands of names etched on walls and columns, and gazed at statues of some of the patron saints of parishes in our diocese – Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Frances Xavier Cabrini.

The National Shrine is one of our pre-eminent Marian shrines. The different personifications of the Blessed Mother were beautiful and varied, from the somber Our Mother of Sorrows chapel to the ornate and vibrant Chapel of Our Lady of La Vang, the patroness of Vietnam.

Tuesday morning I decided to check out the main church. It was breathtaking and, initially, a bit intimidating. This is truly God’s “house,” a place for properly reverent prayer and reflection. As I walked through and looked at the Marian chapels, and at the huge face of Christ above the altar, I began to realize that I was in prayer. I knelt for formal prayer several times but the entire time in this building was to receive God and to commune with Him.

Not surprisingly, I lost track of time and nearly missed my plane. I don’t have to tell you that it would have been worth it for my time in this glorious house of God.

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