Going Back to St. Bernard’s

I was in a wedding over the weekend at a local church, which just also happened to be where I went to grade school. I hadn’t been back in years– I’m not a Catholic– but still was incredibly impressed by how beautiful and imposing it is– especially to people who had never seen it before, much less been inside it.

Going back to this church brought back all kinds of memories, but it also sort of let me take a step back for a minute and see the church again for the first time. I had been in one other Catholic wedding, but that was ages ago and in a much different church. That church was one of those that I label “modern,” because after growing up in St. Bernard’s– which is more akin to the Reims cathedral— every other church looked modern to me. I never thought that was a good thing, and as a child, just couldn’t imagine why you wouldn’t make all churches like St. Bernard’s. Ah the curiosity of children.

Such a beautiful place. The intricate artwork is fascinating. Where these pretty flowers are is basically where I was standing! Image courtesy of St. Bernard’s.

So this was the first time I was in a wedding there, which means it was also the first time I was going to walk down its long, impressive aisle and actually stand elevated on the front altar. (Yikes). Needless to say the ceremony was perfectly fine, there was just a lot of kneeling, which is to be expected. Going up the marble steps was a little nerve-wracking, as I did not want to trip on my long bridesmaid’s gown, but other than that, it was smooth sailing. Of course it takes some getting used to an audience looking up at you for upwards of 45 minutes!

To be honest, for most of the ceremony I was trying to look around as much as I could, because when I was in school there, this part of the church was completely off limits to anyone but those involved in the mass. I was ever so curious about all the “accoutrements” up there, such as special books, candles, and linens. There were so many fancy gold items too I wanted a closer look at. And what about the organ? Is there a way we can just stare up at the beautiful frescoes? This is how my mind worked.

There’s always been a lot of ornamentation and history that accompanied the Catholic mass, and I don’t know why, but I always wanted to know what it was for, and why it was there. Just curious I guess. Anyway, as best I could I tried to enjoy my time up there and let my curiosity wander– after all, I wasn’t the one getting married 🙂

There’s a wonderful book about the “Cathedral of the South Hills” that was put out sometime in the 1990s, and it’s worth a look, if just to gaze at the pictures.

I was just in St. Bernard’s for an early morning mass that was said for my mother, who passed away 12 years ago, and couldn’t help but be struck by the beautiful silence before the service started.

Quiet, before dawn,

stillness settles in the large space.

Ever so grand, yet small noises

echo too.

Contemplative, and sublime,

this august structure can create a space

so serene,

the sun waits to rise.

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