Friday, May 31, 2013


photo of St. Joseph's Oratory
Photo by Laslovarga via Wikimedia Commons
I'm planning a day trip to Montreal, Quebec tomorrow, and I'll probably visit St. Joseph's Oratory.

St. Joseph's Oratory is a massive domed basilica, built near the top of Mount Royal, smack in the middle of the Island of Montreal. The dome dominates the Montreal Skyline, so much so that when I was a kid, my parents used to offer a quarter to the first person to spot it on the horizon whenever we drove up to Montreal. I'll check for sure tomorrow, but I'd guess that the dome is first visible from about 15 miles away. Wikipedia tells me that St. Joseph's was built between 1904 and 1967, so it was already retro from the day the first brick was laid.

St. Joseph's has always been a pilgrimage site, where according to legend, people with disabilities are healed after climbing … or crawling … up the basilica's long approaching steps. Inside, there is a wall covered with a display of hundreds of crutches supposedly left by pilgrims after their miracle cures. It's kind of a garish, ridiculous-seeming idea, I suspect even for many Catholics (which I am not). But the story's cheese factor is lessened by the basilica's outside grandeur, and most of all by its interior, which is quiet, austere, and haunting … the very opposite of garish. It is the only place of worship that I have ever been in that has come close to spiritualizing my skeptical, materialist heart.

I will NOT be attempting an actual pilgrimage up those steps. If there's some sort of rack inside that would straighten my back and make me taller, I'll give it some thought.

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