Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The beauty of Catholicism and personal devotion

I was visiting my parents over the weekend, and so instead of going to our home parish we went to the beautiful church they go to. I always love coming to this church, with its old fashioned exterior and wonderfully pristine interior. The bells that ring out every Sunday morning before Mass feel like a celebration -- like Christmastime, all year round.

When you step up the worn concrete stairs and open the heavy wooden doors of the church, you make your way through the foyer and into the main sanctuary. This church is very blessed in that it is very, very beautiful. There are many stained glass windows on both sides of the sanctuary, and twin angel statues hold basins of holy water. The wood has been painted and lacquered to look like marble, and high up near the vaulted ceiling are beautiful painted portraits of various saints.

The crucifix is really awe-inspiring, with a large Christ suffering on the cross. His wounds are clearly visible, even if you're sitting in the very back row, or in the baby room, which has large windows so that parents can see the service (and hear it through an audio feed, as well). This suffering Christ looks down on the congregation and the pastor as the Mass is celebrated. There is also a lovely statue of Mary, holding a rosary. But the most beautiful of all the statues, in my opinion, is a large one of Mary with her beloved Son's body in her arms. She looks down at him with a serene sadness, and holds His precious hand in her's.

What must Mary have been thinking as she looked down at her Son, her only boy, her beautiful baby? How must her heart have been pierced and wounded as she remembered holding Him when he was just a newborn baby, and comforting Him when He was a toddler. She had watched Him grow into a strong young man, the Messiah of Israel, and now He lay, broken and battered, in her arms.

While she held his limp hand, what did our Mother feel? Thank the Lord, I have never experienced the loss of a child. It's a pain, I imagine, that never really goes away, and that aches the rest of one's life.

This statue, in all its beauty and sadness, is towards the back right of the church, near where the confessional is. I wonder, perhaps, if pentinents who are waiting to be absolved of their sin look at the fallen Christ in the arms of His mother and realize that this death He experienced was all for us. When I look at it, I feel awe -- awe for Christ and what He has done for us, and awe for the life of the Blessed Mother -- the joy and pain that coloured her existence. Despite the fact that her Son died for us sinners, she still loves us and intercedes for us as a loving mother.

There's no doubt that our Catholic faith is beautiful. We Catholics understand that beauty is an integral part of worship. God made us for a realm more beautiful than the one we currently live in -- so its only natural that beautiful music, beautiful art and beautiful words move us and help us feel closer to Him. I feel so blessed to be Catholic.

But yet, I want to go deeper. I want to be like the woman I saw at Mass at that beautiful church. She stood by that gorgeous statue of Mary holding her Son in her arms, holding onto His hand, and she joined her hand to theirs. She stood there, eyes closed, a serene look on her face. She quietly stroked the Lord's hand and prayed.

The beauty of this devotion astounded me. It made me ask myself, have I ever been that loving, that devoted to Christ? How can I make that love, that ardent devotion, a reality in my own existence? How can I pass it on to my children, in this world that scoffs at religion and is focused on self?

I can pray. I can pray, especially, that our Blessed Mother will bring me closer to Christ, and that the Holy Spirit will create in me a true, deep, abiding love and devotion to Jesus. I can really put my heart and soul into praying, every day, in a quiet place on my own. I can make sure I take time to read the Bible and I can ensure that my family and I take time for daily prayer -- be it morning prayer (Lauds) or evening prayer (Vespers) or both. And I can trust that God is working in me already to bring me into a relationship with Christ that is ever more loving and devoted.

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