During the course of my time in Europe, I saw many churches. While in Rome I was able to enter into some of the most beautiful churches in the world. The basilicas are famous for their antiquity and artistic wonders. As I wandered through Assisi, I was able to pray in beautiful churches as well. At the hermitage of St. Francis, the areas of prayer seemed notable for their austerity and simplicity. One of the most beautiful chapels I have ever seen was my sister’s convent in Pennsylvania—the bare, wooden floors, the large, dark crucifix, and the altar made from a tree trunk made the simplicity obvious yet gorgeous. In a different way, St. Peter’s Basilica caused me to reflect on God as I gazed at the giant statues and ornamental features. When done correctly, both the simple and the ornate can cause the faithful to enter into prayer.
It is a natural thing, as a Catholic, to hone in on the beautiful places that house our King and go there to worship. In the midst of the gothic spires and baroque architecture, it is easy to forget that the person who lives within is the same person who lives in every Catholic Church around the world. He is no greater or lesser in the soaring cathedrals than in the simple country church. He isn’t more or less present if his tabernacle is made of wood or pure gold.
I am certainly not arguing for one specific type of architecture, but it is an interesting concept. Jesus isn’t reserved for the rich or only partially present to the poor. One of the best realizations I came to during my travels was about where Jesus prefers to live. He has a preference. I was in the Melk Abbey in Austria and gazing at the splendid beauty around me. I remembered it again as I was in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and was surrounded by rich symbolism and intricate mosaics. Jesus—despite all of the grand churches, cathedrals, and basilicas, regardless of the small chapels and country churches, besides the fact that there are many a magnificent tabernacle, monstrance, and ciborium ready to hold Him—would rather dwell in me.
Perhaps it isn’t a really profound thought, but it struck me deeply as I prayed in places of such intense beauty. Many of the basilicas were under construction for decades, striving to make a better home for Jesus. Am I that dedicated? Do I spend that much time preparing for Jesus to make His home and His dwelling within me?