On Notre Dame and Sacred Spaces

Without knowing it, I've spent the last six weeks preparing for Notre Dame to burn.

This spring, in observance of Lent, I led a small group of contemplatives on a tour of several sacred spaces in North Texas. Each Saturday, we visited a different chapel, cathedral or monument where we simply sat in silent prayer for half an hour, then went to lunch. It was a rich time. 

Dallas is blessed with remarkable and beautiful diversity in its houses of worship. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, there were 6,144 religious congregations in North Texas in 2010. Most have a building fashioned for their unique identity and philosophy, and many are strikingly handsome.

We visited Cathedral Guadalupe, busy with spires, statues and stained glass. And we visited the Cistercian Abbey in Irving with its bare, stone walls reflective of the simple life of the monks who live there. We mused over enormous reproductions of paintings by famous artists -- Magritte, Picasso, Dali, and Rembrandt -- at Irving Bible Church, my home church, where the building itself looks more like an art museum than a church. And we were delighted to decode the organization of stained glass at Highland Park Presbyterian Church where one group of windows represents apostles, another represents women in the Bible, another represents 16th century reformers, and another depicts the six categories of "the least of these" with whom Jesus identified.

At the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, we gathered round a lantern suspended from the ceiling that holds Communion bread and a flame that is kept perpetually burning. At First United Methodist Church, we marveled at the immense pipe organ, waiting to fill the 93-year-old seating bowl with its sound. And at Thanksgiving Square, we imagined our prayers swirling upward with the curve of the famous stained glass spiral.