Last weekend when we were in Montreal, our friend M took us to visit Saint Joseph’s Oratory. The word oratory makes this building sound like something other than a church, but it is a church. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines this word as: “a structure other than a parish church, set aside by Church authority for prayer and the celebration of Mass”. This particular building was the dream of the now sainted Brother Andre and is reported to be the largest church in Canada.
We have been in a lot of churches in Europe and had been in the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal that morning. The dome of the Oratory gave the impression that we were in for more of the same, gothic architecture, stained glass, elevated pulpits and all the other bits that make up an old church. What a surprise to walk in the back door of the sanctuary into a space that was so different from expected that it really made you wonder if you were inside the building that you had seen from the outside. It was magical. It was holy.
The space was not gothic, it was not ringed by
stained glass windows, It was soaring concrete, open fresh space that had 1960’s written all over it. Clean lines accentuated the soaring heights, heavenly heights. It was amazing in its simplicity, your eyes are drawn to the center, the crucifix, and nowhere else.
It was an amazing surprise. Among all of the other great things that we experienced during this trip to Montreal, this church will live on as one of the highlights. Its going to keep us going into churches, looking to be surprised!
Have you been surprised at church lately?