“They say that these are not the best of times
But they’re the only times I’ve ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own”
“Summer Highland Falls” – Billy Joel
I’ve had occasion to spend time in a hospital chapel over the past few months. It’s a chapel I’ve known well and for many years, having frequented it maybe 20 years or so ago. The chapel of that era was Christian- themed (Catholic more specifically), complete with a tabernacle, repository to the Sacred Eucharist. A crucifix overlooked an altar, kneelers lined the periphery, a broad bound red book containing scripture rested upon a lectionary podium stand. And a statuette of Mary overlooked the entire setting. It was familiar and comforting.
The world has changed in those 20 years. So too has the chapel.
Today, symbols of every major world religion adorn a redesigned spherical ceiling. The tabernacle is gone, the only crucifix is a painted one on the ceiling, the kneelers have been pushed toward the rear, the red book is on a shelf. There’s no Mary anywhere to be found.
This saddened me. It was unfamiliar. I was not comforted.
On the morning of her second surgery, I stayed there. For many hours.
During that time, numerous hospital employees, patients, and concerned family members came into that place as well. To pray. Some fell upon mats oriented to the same direction. One whispered a repetitive phrase under his breath for several minutes. Another stood while praying. And though much of this was not familiar, not initially comforting, I found a communion nonetheless. There was a connection between us.
Each of us there looked to the divine, but in our own specific way… showcasing different postures, different words. Separate but together. To each one of us, it was a cathedral of our own making; we were there for a reason other than anything housed in that room but rather for what it represents and what lies beyond it.