When the Sidewalks are Cold
Moving to the city has so many qualities of a dream; it is the kind of life Meg Ryan lives in You’ve Got Mail.
It is all energy and excitement. The lyrics of Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York round through your head as you walk down the streets. But I have also been confronted with a level of mainstream culture that never forced itself down my throat in Notre Dame, Indiana. Unanswerable homelessness creeps around every corner.
The advertisements, the sidewalk conversations, the pervasive homosexuality, the comments yelled in the street all remind me that no one even remembers what love is. Where do you turn when you realize so much of the glamour around you is simply cheap plastic painted to gleam like gold?
I ran to God.
I was so excited that the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Chicago, one of the largest dioceses in the nation, was a ten minute walk from my apartment! Walking up, the architecture fills you with anticipation. The potential for beauty is palpable...
But walking in, you are slapped in the face. I almost couldn’t stay.
Et tu, Brute?
The altar piece is bare; the tabernacle is in a corner, buried amidst some gaudy and distorted bronze sculpture. The stained glass windows are misshapen, primary-colored squares. The altar is cold.
The contrast between what could be and the deliberate reality stings. But it is in walking distance, I said. It doesn’t matter that the homilies occasionally sound borderline heretical.
Jesus is Jesus.
I forgave as much as I could. I was determined to go console the Lord, who has to live there, if nothing else, but it has been draining. With the crisis of the Church constantly ringing in my ears, the climate of this cathedral cuts to the quick. It screams unceasingly of all the issues at hand.
In tandem with a new and demanding work schedule. I unintentionally stopped praying. I couldn’t find God. Not in my coffee mornings or in my work, not in the Rosary I would forget to say until falling asleep at night, and—most crushingly of all—even at Mass. I desperately clutched for a change.
Finally, I looked up the next closest church, in spite of it being a forty minute walk instead of ten. I would simply pretend I was in Rome. What is a mere two miles? The walk to Mass confirmed all of the mess of humanity that has been jading me these last weeks. I was yelled at while stopped at a crosswalk; I could hear some girl relaying the details of her wild weekend across the phone; I couldn’t even smile at strangers because I was alone and outside the boundaries of familiar, well-populated streets. I felt sick at heart.
And then, I walked in to St. John Cantius. It felt like Jesus personally came to give me a hug as I opened the door. Tears of relief unexpectedly surged up and escaped while He held me in that embrace.
After holding my breath for a month, I had finally exhaled.
I paused to say hello before I booked it to the open confessional that caught my eye. The opportunity for confession was yet another rich gift, leaving me even more renewed than the warm welcome I had felt on entering. The cassocked priests bustled respectfully on the altar. The atmosphere sang of steadfast faith, undying hope, and true Love. I was home again. I had found the goodness that is the real heart of the Church. Images of the saints rose up around me, inspiring me with their witness. I gloried in the liturgy, every moment underscoring the depth of Christ’s sacrifice and the beauty of Truth. Under the pressure and pain of the last weeks, my heart had started to harden a little, doing the best it could do to protect its fragile, inexperienced self.
And now it was melting back into the rhythm of Christ’s. Today, I am stirred by a desire to reestablish a vibrant relationship with God, and my soul is rejoicing as I reconnect to my dear friend Jesus through fidelity to prayer and by walking each step of my day with Him—allowing Him to enlighten my mind, so that I can see all things as He sees them and see Him in all things. And accordingly, I challenge you.
Identify where your spiritual life is struggling: in what ways and due to what causes? What steps can you take to revitalize the friendship you have with Christ? Come run with me on the path to sainthood!
Catholic Worldview Fellow '17, '18