In our society, we so often hear that we are unable to fully apprehend and enjoy anything unless it comes from our own culture. For instance, we hear that you cannot really appreciate jazz or blues music if you are white, or certain religious concepts or places unless you belong to that religion, and so on.
How happy I am to find exceptions to this rule. I love jazz music, and I love to contemplate temples and mosques, even though I am not Hindu or Muslim. Above all, the experience of sitting in the Mary Queen of the World cathedral in Montreal was overwhelming and moving, even though I am not Catholic.
This replica of St. Peter’s church in Rome may not be on the same scale as the original, and lacks the Roman church’s great outdoor courtyard and colonnades, but it is still possible to feel a bit of old Europe as you walk around it, stroll into its atrium, and sit down in its glorious sanctuary.
Relaxing there for a time is a true delight. The clerestory lights along the ceiling add a diffuse natural light. The altar surround, a copy of the famous Baroque-style construction by Bernini in Rome, dazzles with its white-on-black floral motifs and spiral vertical columns, while the paintings of the saints on the walls and the tombs of the local bishops quietly encourage the curious to learn more about their histories.
The stone sarcophagus of the church’s founder, Ignace Bourget, is particularly stirring, and brings to mind the similar constructions of Egypt. The parishioners that trickle in to pray on a weekend afternoon, and the occasional fellow traveler, add a human dimension to the sanctuary.
Overall, it is a place where anyone with a sufficiently open mind can come and feel a sense of belonging and wholeness, a palliative to hell and ennui. It is a place of relief.