I had a reverential experience attending mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, in its eponymic Minnesota city, this afternoon. The renaissance style of both the architecture and sculpture give the building – whose cornerstone was laid in 1907 – make the building feel like it’s been around for much longer. In 2009, St. Paul Cathedral was dedicated the National Shrine of the Apostle St. Paul; and, as such, it has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of people each year.
The cathedral’s exterior drew me into a sort of hushed awe before I set foot in the door, and the sentiment increased as I entered the building’s nave. The dome in the Cathedral of St. Paul is a massive 306.5 feet high, and one can’t help but look up upon entering. I love this style of church because every inch is beautifully and significantly ornamented. While my eye never felt overstimulated or barraged – perhaps because the figures represented are serene and the building’s hues dominated by wood and stone – it never lacked someplace lovely to rest.
Mass was glorious. I’d only ever attended two Catholic services (a friend’s wedding, and a service in the Phoenix airport during a layover a few months ago), and as neither of those were traditional masses, I wasn’t certain what to expect of the mass nor how much interaction the mass expected from me.
There is quite a bit more interaction in Catholic Mass than in the LDS services I”m used to. First off, lots of standing and speaking back. Kneeling, standing, singing little bits, sitting. I loved the acoustics of the building: everything sounds beautiful in a Cathedral. You can sing as loud as you’d like, and you blend into what sounds like a Gregorian chorus.
The sermon was lovely. The priest spoke about how important it is to know what we are looking for in life. Referencing the U2 concert from the night before, he said that some of us “Still haven’t found what we’re looking for.” But when asked what it is we’re looking for, we don’t know. It’s important to know what you’re looking for in order to know when you’ve found it. We ought to ensure that we’re looking for ultimate love, which may be found in Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
When it was time for Communion, I was fairly concerned because everyone was getting up, and I was in people’s way. Not being Catholic, I knew I wasn’t supposed to take the Communion, though. Luckily, they’d already thought of a way to ameliorate this situation for gentiles. I simply went up with everyone else, crossed my arms over my chest, and the Priest gave me a lovely blessing.
Following Mass, I wandered the nearly empty Cathedral. I am always amazed at the love and devotion such houses of worship express. What great sacrifice and effort to praise the Lord in works of stone. The nave and ambulatory of the Cathedral is lined with small chapels to various patron Saints. My favorite was the Infant of Prague (a statue of the Christ Child in papal robes), and I also always enjoy images of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland. Google Images didn’t provide satisfactory images of either, but I hope, in lieu, you’ll enjoy this image of the lovely Shrine and statue of this city and Cathedral’s namesake.