I’ve always had a thing about churches. They’re a haven from the outside world, a sanctuary where the mind can wander and meditate in silence.

My relationship with churches, though, is tempered by what they represent. Those vast, cavernous, cathedral buildings represented power and intimidation, too. In such a massive space, how could a sinner not feel intimidated and penitent.

Churches are among some of my earliest memories. My mother was a very devout Roman Catholic whose day was not complete without a visit to the church. She helped out with the flower arrangements, did some voluntary, cleaning work and attended sodalities, rosaries and special Masses.IMG_1802

She had her own devotion to St Martin of Porres, an ascetic,  Brazilian monk who endured severe hardship and deprivation, throughout his life, as part of his own religious journey. When she went to church, she lit candles and prayed for the dead. Her missal (prayer book) was packed with memorials to deceased relatives and friends, whose souls’ redemption, she prayed for, every day.

The sound of people, like my mother, praying, in an empty church will always echo in my head. Their whispering chants and mantra like drones and sometimes, whistles, rattle around in my head.

Although I have little time for religion, I do believe in the fervour of their belief, those women and men of my parents’ generation. Yet, it’s tempered by the sickening revelations of abuse and cover ups that have plagued the Roman Catholic church, in particular. IMG_1808

But most of all, I don’t like religion because, while most of them hold ‘love’ to be a central tenet of their beliefs, too many people have died, in hate, in defence of those beliefs, I wrote a song, once, called ‘Dying to Believe’, on that very subject. This was the chorus,

Kill me with faith
Beat me up with the truth
Lay me out with the evidence
I m dying to believe

So I like to visit churches, alone. I sit and listen and think but I don’t believe. I have no issue with others’ beliefs, just leave me out of it. I live in the grounds of a church and enjoy the site of a beautiful church tower, outside my bedroom window, every day. Within a short walking of distance of where I live, the two largest and oldest cathedrals in Ireland regularly ring out the time of day or the call for devotion.

13 thoughts on “Churches

  1. If you ever visit Switizerland and arrive in our local town of Solothurn, you can see our cathedral. We are a catholic Kanton and are lucky to get all their holidays. The Swiss reform church cantons only get the official holiday. I love churches, for the pure reason that they give me nice photos for my camera. I very much liked your photos.

      • No problem, I am a complete atheist, but I still like to take photos in churches. Mr. Swiss is reform church, but never goes, my No. 2 son got married in a catholic church because his wife is catholic and I grew up in the East End of London, christened church of England, but our school was 50% jewish. At least I got to know it all – and I lived 2 years with a half muslim family in Zürich.

  2. Have you ever visited or seen photos of the cathedrals in the woods? Three in Arkansas and then Holy Cross Chapel in Sedona AZ. Magnificent feast for the eyes and nourishment for the soul. Glad you can feel at home in a church building. I often feel at church in my garden or a forest of evergreens rustling in the wind. Beautiful music at no expense. J

    • I agree with you, Jeanne, broadly, but churches had a different role at a time when the establishment of the church has as much to do, if no even more, with power than piety, hence the ambiguity

      • Yes, power lusts and lust leads to nothing good. Beauty on the outside, with a heartless inside, brings bad fruits. A person is worth more who embraces beauty with just action. Blessings. I know you don’t believe, so I respectfully will leave you with that nugget of thought.

  3. I can relate with that.
    Beautiful a church may be, they inspire equal amounts of respect – which often comes in the shape of fear.
    This mixture – beauty and oppression – is a very confuse one, since, as you said, most religions hold ‘love’ as one of theis dogmas…

    And, yet, the vastness of a cathedral is doubtlessly enticing.

    • Those big old churches and cathedrals were designed to intimidate and frighten even when they said it was in exaltation of their respective deities. The church was the most powerful institution in the western world for more than 1,000 years.

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