I used to travel to Northern Ohio for work on a consistent basis. During one trip, I stopped to get lunch in a small town called Carey. I grabbed some food and parked a few blocks over from the restaurant to eat. I noticed a huge church, complete with a cafeteria and gift shop. I did a quick Google search and found out that I was parked across from the National Basilica of Our Lady of Consolation and that the basilica was open 24/7. With this new information, I decided to go inside.
The basilica is beautiful. I walked around, lit candles on the several shrines and sat in the pews. As I’m sure you’ve figured out that I am in no way, Catholic, but I do feel a connection with the Virgin of Guadalupe. That’s what was most surprising when I felt an intense spiritual connection with this church. There wasn’t a representation of the Virgin of Guadalupe in sight. Despite this confusion, I made it a point to stop into the basilica any time I was in the area and have wanted to go back ever since I stopped working up North.
One of my friends, Dan, is going through a rough time and has expressed the desire to get out more. I always try to invite him out, but since most of my social time is spent at a bar and since he is a recovering alcoholic, I always feel weird about inviting him to the bar. Since we both has Monday off for New Year’s Day, I invited him to go with me to the basilica. I intended to go in the afternoon, but since Dan is also a devout Catholic, he wanted to attend morning mass. Begrudgingly, I agreed.
Mass was interesting and it allowed the opportunity to compare my spiritual practice to Catholicism. I noticed that most of the parishioners knelt in quiet prayer before the service began. I equated this to the foundational ritual of grounding and centering. When the altar candles were lit, I thought to myself “I bring light into this sacred temple. Light to life in everything.” And I couldn’t help but think “May you never hunger. May you never thirst” during communion.
As we were leaving, Dan asked if I wanted to go to the lower basilica where there were other shrines. I didn’t realize there was more to the basilica, so I happily agreed. We walked down the steps and my eyes immediately went to the shrine of none other than the Virgin of Guadalupe. I was floored. This explained my connection to the basilica. I lit a candle and said a prayer of thanks.
The lessons I took away from this experience is that I can find a spiritual experience in a variety of environments and that if you feel called to a certain place, there is usually a reason.