Worship in Foreign Parts

My wife and I have been lucky enough to travel and worship in England and Italy. When I am in Italy I attend Mass and take Communion. I know the Church has rules against this, because I am not a Catholic. I know the arguments on both sides of the question, and I think they are all good. I take warrant from my late friend Ev Simson, who on a visit to Haiti asked the presiding clergy there whether he could take Communion. The priest asked, Did Jesus Christ bring you here? Ev answered, Yes. The priest said, There’s your answer.

My introduction to Cathedral worship was at St. Paul’s, London. I remember thinking this was the first time I had really been indoors in my life; the rest of my time was spent in comparative huts and shacks. This is a building one can read. Mosaics on both sides, in the crossing, and the quire narrate the history of the world, from Creation to Judgment. In the south aisle there is a photo of the dome standing, under bombing during the Battle of Britain, and a sign nearby: “The grandeur of God is the measure of His mercy.”

People from several countries were within arm’s reach at Evensong. I heard the most beautiful music I have even heard in my life, from a boy soprano. I probably embarrassed the people around me, conspicuously shedding tears.

This experience started me out as a romantic tourist of churches. Maybe that is a questionable motive. After all, we are there to worship, not to be entertained or impressed by opulence. Notwithstanding that, I propose in future squibs like this to offer some memories of exceptional liturgies I have attended. I would also like to hear from readers about their own such experiences.

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