an unexpected pilgrimage

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I’m attending a conference in downtown Atlanta this week, a STEM event where I presented with a colleague earlier in the week. Today, for reasons unknown to me, the session I wanted to attend was cancelled, leaving me with something like a two-hour window before the next session. I decided to take a little walk down the street  to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This lovely church was a part of my life as a child. We sometimes went to Mass in Spanish there when we first came to the United States. There was usually some kind of pot luck fellowship thing going on, but what I remember most was playing with my friends after Mass.

Years later, I went back with my teen-aged kids to work in the soup kitchen. The church is right smack in the middle of downtown, and while it is surrounded by beautiful hotels, luxury condominiums and professional offices, there’s an intense police presence in the area and what many folks might consider a bit of an unsavory crowd. The truth is, there’s a reason why there’s a soup kitchen in the church basement, and there’s a reason why some of the most important ministries there serve the poor and marginalized.

I was lucky enough to make it to daily Mass, and was struck by the simple beauty of the prayers of the faithful, which were not only for the residents of the area, but for the people who worked there, and surprisingly, for the visitors who come on business and find respite in its beauty, a retreat in the middle of the noisy city.

That’s certainly what I found there, and to my double delight, when Mass ended, there was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I was overcome, thinking I was just going to slip in unnoticed and take some pictures, and not only Mass, but Adoration awaited me.

God is good, all the time. I needed that respite, the silence I can only find in Adoration which always begins with so much chaos in my mind and in my heart, and never fails to end with peace.

It seems like these days I bring a lot to the foot of the cross. Some of it I want to dash angrily, and other things, heavy with resignation, get piled up, one on top of the other. It’s quite a consolation, to lay myself bare, even though it’s something I’m still not comfortable doing — and yet it’s the most natural thing when I let go — it’s what I crave and what I need.

I was happy to have my phone with me to take some pictures. I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity to return, but I’m grateful for the long visit today.

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