Yesterday, Aug 6, I had took a little pilgrimage to St. Louis with another seminarian. I say pilgrimage deliberately as I think of that ancient form of prayer, which includes physical movement from ordinary life to another place where the pilgrim seeks to find God.
It was a terrific and busy day.
On the way, we went to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Beautiful grounds! Having not planned it, perhaps it was Providential that we made the trip on the very feast day of Our Lady of the Snows. We went around the outdoor stations of the cross and toured some of the buildings there. It was the last day of the novena leading up to the feast and I was bummed that we were unable to attend the candle-lit rosary procession at night. My “bums” were lessened when I learned that it had been canceled due to the heat.
We then proceeded to St. Louis and our first stop was the Old Cathedral, the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France. The first church west of the Mississippi River, it is a glorious structure that is the only one within 40 blocks along the river that was not demolished during the construction of the Arch, which is quite close. Having no stained glass windows and many chandeliers, the building has a bit of a colonial feel to it. The marble altars and the silver pipes of the organ are simply glorious to behold. I enjoyed looking at a beautiful painting there of Saint Louis venerating the Crown of Thorns.
Next we went to Kenrick Seminary and gave ourselves a thorough tour. The main chapel is beautiful (with real confessional boxes!). We went around all floors and imagined what seminary life might be like there. I enjoyed seeing coat racks with cassocks thrown upon them and I wondered how often they are worn during the academic year. It’s a very nice place.
Then we went to the Shrine of St. Joseph but didn’t make it inside as we were too late. Next time this will be a must; pictures I have seen reveal a glorious church! After walking around a bit of the SLU campus (which is run by the Jesuits), we ended up waiting outside the steps of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. Words cannot describe the beauty there. Pictures later.
The performance that was the main point of our visit was exceptional. The famous boys’ choir Libera performed a number of beautiful pieces. It’s a British group of Catholic boys who range from seven to fifteen or something near that. Well over half of their pieces were sung in Latin, because they recognize the deeper meanings of ancient texts that are made more fully accessible only through Latin. They processed into the filled basilica wearing white albs with hoods such that they looked like “little monks”! I hope to share more reflections on this performance later, but I will end this paragraph with the words from the outgoing music director of the Basilica: “Libera is not your mother’s boys’ choir!”
It was a much-needed and prayerful day.