Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Sacred spaces

There are moments where many people from very different lives suddenly find themselves in emotional unity, in harmony, with hearts beating together. The distances between them can be short or they can span around the world. This week many experienced one of these moments as we saw a well-known Roman Catholic cathedral, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, burn in flames.

It is entirely predictable that the French Roman Catholics were moved. It's part of the national identity. It's also very understandable that Roman Catholics around the world were touched by the unfolding tragedy. There are the many Francophiles around the world who are deeply saddened. Architect lovers. Historians. Many different peoples who would have been shocked by the fire.

It feels like a wide range of people were emotionally touched by this fire. It makes me appreciate the human need for beautiful places, quiet spots, sacred spaces. To some, such a space might be a cathedral. To others, a small chapel. To many I know, it could be in the wild country, the mountains, their garden. And to some, it could be a yoga mat, or window where the sunlight warms you as you sit quietly.

We all can be inspired by art or by music, by simple walls or by silence. These places and visions, scents and touches have a way of reaching deep into ourselves, giving us grace to think, to connect, to process. They also are highly personal. What works for me may not work for people close to me, even my own spouse. And that's ok. What resonates within us is part of our unique being.

To each of us, these places are special; they are sacred. They are sacred not because of a label or certificate, but because we consecrate them with our love and our intimacy with Creation and our Creator when we are there.

They are where we are invited to discover ourselves, see ourselves, be ourselves. They are where our core being floats to the surface, able to breathe in the air of life. We all need these places because our longing, our life energy, depends on a fertile ground to grow. Sacred spaces make space in our hearts and minds to discover the sacred within.

What if those places become destroyed, burned, and hidden? What if we move away? Are these places any less sacred? Are we bereft of the sacred when this happens?

All things return to dust. We certainly do. And special places cannot escape this truth of this world. It doesn't mean that we who remain behind cannot find meaning in the ashes. We can build ourselves a new space. We can give new life to a new place that in return gives life to us. We ourselves make a place sacred by discovering how that spot, that room, that wild open countryside changes us, reshaping us, reminding us of who we are.

Some places, like the Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris, were not on my radar as a sacred place to me. I didn't understand my emotional response. But when I looked inside, I had subconsciously found in those aged stones a foundation for my journeys. I began my backpacking journey through Europe, my first visit, as a college student. I attended daily mass there on various trips, by myself, with my parents, my ex, my husband, my nephews. I started my Taize pilgrimage from that Cathedral. I started my Camino from Lourdes to Santiago de Compostela by first visiting this Cathedral. I listened to the bells all night long -- every night -- on my last visit to the cathedral, as my AirBnB was a block away. I didn't intend to do so, but I had consecrated the cathedral because she invited me to share these special journeys with her.

What places have you 
intentionally or unintentionally 
made sacred with your love and presence?

May we always remember those places which invite us to feel alive, and may we be privileged to return to those places as often as we need.  In these sacred spaces, we are blessed by merely being present and we become one with the blessing that unites us all.

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