File this one under "mysterious ways": At Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King last Saturday, the priest during his homily mentioned how that very afternoon, just as he was leaving confessions, a man approached him and asked what confession was about. As they spoke the man revealed that he had once gone to a Catholic school, but had left it all behind. He also said his daughter wasn't baptised, and asked the priest what he should do about that. The priest answered as best he could, and asked us all to pray for the man. The man was there in the first place because his daughter saw the Cathedral as they drove by, and she thought it was a castle, and wanted to go in and see if there was a dragon inside. The man came close, and saw that the lights were on and the door was open (it was the time for confessions, after all) and he took his daughter inside. Strange are the ways that bring us back to a church.
The irony of the above story is that there is a place called "Dundurn Castle" about half a klick up the hill from the Cathedral. The building is more in the style of an Italian villa than a castle, but "Dundurn Italianate Villa" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "Dundurn Castle."
I took my mom and her friend on the long awaited trip and visited three Toronto Churches today: St Clare's, St Patrick's and St Paul's. I checked twice to make sure Mom had her glasses with her this time, and everybody enjoyed themselves. Everything went surprisingly smoothly. We had meant to see St Michael's as well, plus a few others, but there just wasn't time. Mom's friend didn't speak much throughout the trip, but what she said showed she enjoyed herself. St St Paul's, mother asked her if she had seen enough, and she replied: "Oh, I could stay here forever." At the end of the trip she said: "I think I'll just go home now and think of all the beautiful things I saw today."
At St. Clare's we ran into the parish priest, who was doing a little straightening up. "Giving the grand tour, Bear?" he called out. "Make sure you show them the relics." He and I began talking about a few things, preserving history and such, and he mentioned how he thought it was good that although changes had been made to St Clare, most everything had been moved, rather than removed, and therefore most of it could be put back. He was grateful, for instance, that at least part of the original altar had been saved, which makes me think he thinks it a pity the rest had not been saved. He also mentioned that it was too bad something else was taken away: the communion rail. "My first church in Montreal had it," he said. "It's too bad the one here is gone." I had to blink at this. Very few priests I have spoken to miss the rail. I agreed with him, and I mentioned the case of St Paul's, where the communion rail had been made of marble. "Why would they do that?" I wondered rather vehemently.
"Don't be too hard on them," he replied. "Had I been around at the time, I probably would have done the same thing." Now, there are a dozen quips that could be fired off in response to this, but what he said has something to it, and should not be dismissed out of hand. I found my respect for him growing a little, and I held back on any off hand replies.
I asked my wife if she wanted me to take her mother on any tours of the city's churches. Puff just looked at me for a moment before she said: "Bear, mother was born and raised in Italy. A hundred and fifty year old church really won't impress her all that much."
Mom thanked me for taking her out both Saturday and today, but she's starting work on me again. She wants to go to the Toronto Cathedral, for one. She mentioned Martyr's Shrine in passing. She has also been dropping hints about a return to Hamilton Cathedral. "I'm so glad you took me," she said. "I've wanted to go back for so long. It's just too bad I forgot my glasses and I couldn't see anything, and that was probably the last chance I'll ever get to see it. Sigh."
Now you may ask: why does she do this? I have often wondered this myself, and I believe I now have the answer: She does this because it works.