The Cathedral of the Madeleine
It is the weekend and Central Walk has arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In this place, whenever one hundred people pass by on the street, fifty-six of them belong to the Church of the Latter-day Saints, seven are gay or bisexual, and only six are Roman Catholic.
They say “almost” only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades. I say “only” always counts with termites and Holy Mother Church. One short trip to the Cathedral of the Madeleine proves that the Catholics of Salt Lake City are entrenched and fiesty.
We visited the cathedral first thing this morning for 8:00am Mass. From the Romanesque architecture, enormous stained glass windows, and prevalent religious symbolism, the building boasts not merely beauties, but profound beauties.
Speaking with the presiding priest after Mass, Isabelle, Alex, and I heard a short account of the city’s religious demographics and character. We also found out a little about the relationship between introversion and the priesthood.
“When I was a kid, my throat would seize up and my eyes would start watering whenever a teacher called on me in class,” Father explained when I asked him about the difficulties of religious life, “I knew the answers to the questions–well, sometimes I did not–but even when I did, my body would tremble and react.
“Introverts can make great preachers,”he continued, “because, when they are speaking, they do not have to interact with a lot of people quickly and directly like one does at a party or social event. I have trouble with that–a lot of priests do. A lot of priests are introverts.”
I suppose the hardest part of of an introvert’s life often ends up being their own introversion, even if that person is a priest. It strikes me, however, that that same introversion often ends up being a most consoling blessing. I imagine that, after an hour of silence in a secluded spot, few true introverts would surrender their happy curse for anything in the world.
Pitching for conversation, I asked the priest about the cathedral’s patroness, St. Madeleine: “I do not know anything about her,” I said, “Is her image depicted anywhere in the church?”
Father looked at me for a second.
“Madeleine is French,” he explained, “This is the Cathedral of Mary Magdalen. She is the woman weeping at Christ’s feet in the mural on the left, the woman Christ is appearing to in the window on the right, and she stands directly below the crucifix in the front near a reliquary that contains one of her relics.”
Both the absence of St. Madeleine and the ubiquity of Mary Magdalene in the cathedral suddenly made a great deal more sense. I did a little research when we got back to the host house and discovered that Salt Lake City boasts the only church in the entire United States that bears the patronage of the penitent saint. Anyone who has wept with shame for their sins can relate to Mary Magdalene; it seems something of a shame that so few invoke her patronage, but the singularity makes the cathedral’s privilege doubly special.
Enticed by enlightenment, I asked Father a second question concerning a queer scriptural citation that I had noticed adorning the wall to the right of the altar:
“Taken from Galatians, the verse confused me when I saw it. Generally, I just expect a quote from St. John’s Gospel to be in the front of every Church–John 3:16 if it is a Protestant Church, and John 6:53 if it is Catholic one. Alternatively, I expect to see the word “anathema” on any given day about as much as I expect an appendicitis–always a possibility, but probably not gonna happen.
For a second time in less than ten minutes, Father provided that rare kind of satisfying answer that is actually better than the question.
“It is directed at the Mormons,” he smiled, “because Joseph Smith received the gold plates of the Book of Mormon from an angel. We also have the words of Christ founding His Church on the rock of St. Peter along one side of the sanctuary and emphasizing His True Presence in the Eucharist along the other.”
He explained how the cathedral was designed to physically represent Catholcism’s monopoly on the fullness of the Truth.
“Because of the way the terrain lies, even our steeples are a little bit higher than those on the LDS church down the street.”
Truly, a zealous Catholic spirit dwells in Salt Lake City.
Unfortunately, as we would see an hour later as we prayed outside of an active Planned Parenthood clinic, so does an evil one. So many young women passed in and out; it hurt that all we could do was pray.
May God cast Moloch and all his foul brood from our land!