Suffice it to say we had the honour of visiting the national shrine of Mary Queen of the Universe, which as with much of the region of Florida lends itself to the Spanish style of building.
We were overwhelmed with the building with its external murals above the main doors of the chapel, the gift shop was amazing - so much for the eager Catholic. I was like a kid in a sweetie shop. The museum was very interesting, with "old" vestments from 1950s Belfast, some great paintings such as The Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Bartolome Murillo. Quite breathtaking and as I explained to our youngest, 'that was painted at the time of Charles I'.
Externally there is a lovely Rosary Garden, with many of the bricks in the path sponsored by families and individuals. At the centre of it is a breath-taking statue of Our Lady with the Christ Child, all a delight to see in the glorious Florida sun-shine.
Of course, as with the gift shop, there were a very few items that one skipped across because they detracted from the overall feel of the place (Eucharistic monster items in the former, modern art in the latter), but so far the signs were promising.
On entering the chapel for Mass I was encouraged. In the foyer there were statues, a large Holy Water font, a Papal flag and more. Then we went into the chapel itself. The altar was a table in the modern style. A modern art crucified Christ hung above it on a see-through "cross."
My heart sank. If it weren't for the Stations of the Cross, beautiful paintings along the walls in-between some gorgeous stain glass windows, there would have been little to raise my heart and soul to Heaven.
The choir was very professional, but far too "American" for me, the readings were in some awful modern version of the Bible with really, really dreadful modern usage one of which totally destroyed the meaning of the passage, the 'what should it profit a main to gain the world and lose his soul' had the word soul changed to 'life' which, to my mind, naturalises the supernatural.
International Standard Version (©2008)
What profit will a person have if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?
|The Chapel at the National Shrine|
And the less said about the Eucharistic Monsters the better. As someone who finds Communion in the hand upsetting, the site of Tracy from accounts 'dishing out' the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has me on the verge of despair.
This, I feel, is what the Bishops have done in some countries. Is it too much to have altars, not tables? Is it too much to have consecrated hands distributing Communion, not Jo from the supermarket? Is it too much to have Communion placed on the tongue, not in the hand?
As with so many other Catholic churches I visit, this beautiful place reminds me what we have lost, and what we could have. With a high altar and a beautiful Crucifix, and a choir singing Gregorian Chant -- oh, we would be one step away from Heaven!
One day... God willing.