It was an awkward moment. Our friend Angela loves to swim. As the mother of three, she invariably arrives at the pool tired, and a little weary. I am not sure if she had her glasses that day; in any case, a few weeks ago, when she bustled into the locker room, she saw well enough to notice an odd figure standing under the shower. “An athletic woman,” she thought. She looked again. The legs were thick, and hairy. One of them was in the wrong room.
Doors define space. They announce what’s upcoming, and shelter or invite. Can you guess what’s behind the glassy facade? If you were tired I bet you might mistake it. Apart from the half-disguised cross motif, a weary traveler might well wonder whether he was about to stumble into a mall, a lady’s washroom, or a Bible chapel. Each of these is a good in its own right. It’s one thing, for instance, for the Baptists to build sheds, and to slap an aluminum door on the side; it’s quite another for a Catholic Church to snub Michelangelo, Bernini, and 350 years of native architectural tradition.
I do not exaggerate. This year, the Mother Church of North America, Notre-Dame de Qu.bec, is celebrating its 350th birthday with a year of festivities. Chief among which has been the installation of a Holy Door, the 7th in the world. Pilgrims who enter can receive a plenary indulgence. The Basilica reports the response has been outstanding. They anticipate that by December 8 (the close of the Holy Year) some 400,000 will pass through.
Some weary worldlings, no doubt, will prefer to remain outside sipping latte. But at least the offer stands. “To enter the house of God, we must cross a threshold which symbolizes passing from the world wounded by sin to the world of the new life” (CCC, 1186). As Quebec’s Archbishop is making plain, a tired world doesn’t need more anonymous Christians, or invisible churches. Let the pilgrims come! It’s what happens when we open wide the doors of faith.