Thursday, October 8, 2009

Confessions of a Cathedral-aholic

This morning, as Hank finished his last few classes -- and some very good ones, I hear -- I hoofed it the .7 mile to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. This is a serious cathedral, the biggest church in New England and the seat of the Archdiocese of Boston. We can see it from our hotel room, sitting in a leafy neighborhood to the south of us. Naturally, I was excited about walking down there (c.f. cathedrals everywhere else we have ever been.)

Imagine my surprise, therefore, to find the place locked up tighter than a bank at midnight, despite the celebration of 9 a.m. mass, which must have finished shortly before I arrived. I have never, and I want to emphasize this, ever known a cathedral to be locked up. It's almost unthinkable. The cathedral is the one place you can be guaranteed a hushed, lofty peace in mid-city. I was completely disappointed, but not willing to give up hope.

On a mission, of sorts, I set off around the church, where I found a door ajar. I slipped inside and, well, may or may not have impersonated a nun. I do not think that impersonating a nun is a crime, if you do it to gain access to a cathedral, and furthermore, I don't think God minds. I certainly use my time in cathedrals to talk to Him. I went up a short flight of stairs and found myself in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, alone with one other worshipper, who was saying his rosary at the back of the room. I slipped into a pew, and tried to look sufficiently nun-like.

The chapel is a lovely room, as big as many churches themselves, but for some reason it is painted a deep pink. Its crucifix, at the eastern end, is said to contain a relic of the true cross. I was not about to inspect it, but include the Archbishop's own photo of it here; you can make up your own mind. The cathedral itself has beautiful glass, but a rather forbidding aspect. This could just have been my conscience.

One of the advantages of being fifty, with sensible gray hair and an imperious demeanor, is that no one challenges you if you look sufficiently confident, and so it was that I gained a limited access to the nave of the cathedral, dim and somber in the morning light. It was at this point that I did feel like a trespasser (in so many ways) and hastened away, still endeavoring to appear as nunly as possible. It wasn't until much later, when I was telling the story to a horrified but seriously amused Hank, that he asked me, "So, what did you do with your wedding ring?" I stared at him in horror -- in the heat of the moment, I forgot to take it off.

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