Easter Musings Revisited

- April 15, 2017

I nearly didn’t post a blog today, due to a difficult deadline and family developments, but then I recalled one of my favorite posts from several years ago. Rather than posting nothing today, I decided to share with you this entry, first posted by me almost exactly eight years ago on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009. Enjoy, and Happy Easter!

One of the opportunities I embrace when I travel is attending church services wherever I find myself on a Sunday. Being Catholic, I can usually find my way to a Mass without too much difficulty or venturing too far from where I am staying, but I don’t always limit myself to just that denomination.

I enjoy every aspect of the experience: first, finding out where and when exactly the Sunday service will be. I look in a phone book or online, check with a concierge or simply ask another service person or local.

Then comes the challenge of finding my way to the church. It may be as simple as spying a steeple and heading in that direction or as complicated as deciphering subway systems or local maps and navigating back roads and alleyways. The highlight, of course, is taking part in the service itself. I don’t believe it’s possible (at least, I can’t) to attend a Sunday celebration as merely an observer, even if one is not a believer or follower of the faith of that congregation . . . although being so allows one to more fully enter into the experience with the others there.

One can sing along with the choir, follow — and perhaps respond to or join in with — the prayers (understanding the local language helps) and even gain some insight from the homily. In doing so, one can more intimately experience an important aspect of the ordinary lives of the local community. As a traveler, I seek those kinds of connections, the opportunity to meet people in a familiar yet new context.

Church visits I recall range from a bright, joyful service in a tiny church open to the tropical breezes on the North Shore of Oahu to a far more somber and less intimate Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Hands down the most overwhelming experience came at the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, when over a million of us came together at the Marienfeld for a Mass celebrated with Pope Benedict XVI.

On this Easter Sunday, though, I think back five years to a trip our family took to Great Britain. Our older daughter, Sarah, was enrolled in a semester abroad, and we spent our spring break visiting her and sights from London to Scotland. Palm Sunday found us in a large, modern church in London, and I was a bit surprised to see that churchgoers there dressed at least as casually as my congregation at home (another assumption dispelled — a great benefit of travel!).

On Holy Thursday we visited York Minster. Although we had already toured St. Paul’s and Lincoln Cathedral earlier in the week, York stands out in my mind. Here we experienced an Evensong service; it was not very long, but the memory of the ethereal voices of the boys’ choir lifting to the upper reaches of the ornate naves and the beautiful windows will stay with me forever.

We ended our visit on Easter Sunday in Edinburgh in a lovely stone church a pleasant stroll away from our bed-and-breakfast. We were surrounded by other families, not so different from ours: little girls in bright, pretty dresses; ladies in hats and heels; and the men and boys in suits and ties. We felt welcomed and a part of the congregation, a perfect end to our visit — in a foreign land, perhaps, but very much members of the Family of Man.

— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor