A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Beauty in the Sacred

Posted on: July 28, 2014

All the framed certificates, photos, needlework and so on have eaten up most of our wall space, so we haven’t got room for more any art at home. And since my husband and I enjoy looking at art, becoming members of the National Gallery of Canada seemed like a good idea.

Yesterday we broke in our membership cards. I was anxious to see artist Janet Cardiff’s Forty-Part Motet exhibit in the chapel of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent, and we followed the sound of the music to the chapel.

convent chapel

Janet Cardiff’s Forty-Part Motet exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada

As I learned from the National Gallery of Canada app, this chapel, originally part of the convent run by the Sisters of Charity, was dismantled, restored and rebuilt at the National Gallery. Speakers placed around the chapel for the Forty-Part Motet exhibit allow visitors to listen to forty separately recorded choir voices—individually, if you stand in front of a speaker, or as a group if you stand or sit in the middle of the chapel.

I walked around as I listened to the choir performance. I looked at the statues of saints Peter and Paul and Our Lady of Lourdes, and the decoration on the pillars and ceiling and at the front of the chapel. I listened as the voices lifted in praise came together in harmony, and I took the time to enjoy the experience. I’m moved once more just thinking about it.

As we sit in the pew at Mass each week, do we take the time to appreciate the beauty of the service, the music, the decoration of the church? Not every church is as ornately decorated as this chapel or the basilica, but do we see the beauty in the worship space—the altar cloth, the stained-glass windows, the polished wood? Do we think about the words we say and pray and sing?

This week, as we worship at our local parish or as a visitor at another church, I pray that we would try to shut out the distractions—the warmth of the day, the noise of electronics not muted, the thoughts of the chores that still need to be finished—and take the time to notice how our surroundings and the service are designed for worship and praise. And then be fully present and take part in the Mass.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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