This Sunday past I took my mother for another one of our little drives. We went to see St Mary's, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Kitchener. The church was celebrating the feast day of their patroness, but it is a day of special significance because of the peculiar "phenomena" that occurs at this church every year on this day.
As the sun sets, around seven o'clock or so, the rays of the setting sun pass through a tiny piece of red glass in one of the stained glass windows, and the red light lands precisely on the sword pierced heart of the statue of Mary on the high altar. (The high altar is, by the way, one of the Durrer altars I have mentioned previously.) The church tells the story of the phenomena as well as the story of a miracle that may be associated with that same statue here.
Because it was a Sunday, the parish turned it into an all day event. They had rosary followed by exposition, followed by benediction followed by a modified rosary to our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, followed by Mass at seven o'clock. Also because it was a Sunday, they expected a larger than usual crowd.
I think they got a wee bit more than they anticipated. The church was almost packed when Mom and I arrived around four the parking lot was nearly full. There were school buses bringing people in. Word about the phenomena had gotten out, and people were travelling some distance to come and see this, some kind of sign.
The sign was not to come this time, however. Though the weatherman called for cloudy with intermittent sunny periods, the day was miserable and rainy, and the cloud cover never broke, not even once. (I plan on inaugurating a "slug a weatherman" day, real soon.)
And yet, the people stayed. There was a crowd when we arrived, and people still kept coming, filling the church to its absolute maximum capacity and beyond. They stayed through the exposition and the benediction, and they stayed through the prayers and they stayed through the Mass, even though it was obvious no sign would be coming.
A few notes about some things from that day.
At one point, I went to the washroom in the basement. As was usual, there was a very long line to get into the women's washroom, but, unusually, there was also a short line to get into the men's. We stood there grumbling about how long this was taking as we hopped from foot to foot, (the women who were beside us in their own line were blandly unsympathetic) and someone commented that whoever was in there was acting like a woman. And then the door opened, and out came... a woman. She had gotten tired of waiting in her line and jumped the queue to use ours. Is that fair?
I would be remiss not to mention the music. I have of late tried to mostly shut out the music that is sung at church, for I often find myself rating the music and the performance, which is contrary to the spirit of worship. One should come to Mass as a humble believer, not as an arrogant critic. Having said that, I will say this much: I did not have high expectations for the music. Almost all the choirs I have heard sing Mass have been composed of a small group of well meaning souls who are doing their very best to sing for the Glory of God. Occasionally they even sing in tune. On rare occasions I have heard a good choir. However, this choir was excellent and their choice in music was top notch. They sang Elgar Ave Verum, and Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, and a series of chants and settings with which I was not entirely familiar. Even the more standard Catholic hymns seemed to have been rearranged by the director and sounded far better than I have almost ever heard before. Full praise is due to both the director and the choir.
When Mass was over, the church had been so filled that mother and I remained seated for five minutes or more while the Organist hammered out some Bach for the postlude. I wouldn't have gone anywhere anyway while that was playing, but the point was we couldn't because of the size of the crowd streaming out past us.
It was a wonderful day. Mother liked the day immensely, and we both felt uplifted by partaking in the event. We may not have seen the phenomena, but I believe we saw something greater: a church filled with people worshipping God, staying even though it was obvious the sign they came to see was not going to happen.