THIS IS MY CATHEDRAL
I listened intently to the sermon Sunday, because it began with the story of the birth of twins, so of course, it caught my attention. However, the thread about the twins was not actually what kept me enthralled. It was one statement that made me stop to catch my breath. It was the story of Cardinal Thuan Van Nguyen and how he had been imprisoned for 13 years in Viet Nam. For most of the years, he had been in isolation and of course, deeply depressed.
This prisoner in horrific conditions managed to get some wine and some crumbs of bread.
They sent me a small bottle of wine for Mass with a label that read, ‘medicine for stomachaches.’ They also sent some hosts, which they hid in a flashlight for protection against the humidity. The police asked me, ‘You have stomachaches? Yes. Here’s some medicine for you.’
I will never be able to express my great joy! Every day, with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I would celebrate Mass. This was my altar, and this was my cathedral!
He describes many things about his life in prison and of how he wrote notes on small, dirty pieces of paper. He shared these notes with other prisoners, with cruel guards and others. They contain words of such profound spirituality and faith that they have been combined into a book.
In our country there is a saying: ‘A day in prison is worth a thousand autumns of freedom.’ I myself experienced this. While in prison, everyone waits for freedom, every day, every minute. We must live each day, each minute of our life as though it is the last.”
But, what caught my breath the most in last Sunday’s sermon, what made me stop short and hear almost nothing else, was “This is my cathedral.” So, for me it is this. Everyday in every difficult, wonderful, heartbreaking, thrilling, mundane, boring, challenging, lovely, hideous, frustrating, satisfying, angry, tolerant, kind, cruel, empathetic, confusing, dull, exciting, mystifying, logical, rewarding, disappointing, frightening, fearless, doubtful, faithful moment, THIS is my cathedral! So, when I have been wrenched away from love by the death of my precious child or when I have danced with my oldest son at his wedding; when I have witnessed the agony of disease or the satanic grip of addiction or thrilled to the accolades of my children graduating; when I have looked into the eyes of my beloved in my wedding whites or buried my father’s wasted away body; when I have held the thousands of newborn babies in my grateful arms or held their tearful and yearning mothers, all of this IS MY CATHEDRAL! Every day in every moment in every way, no matter how small or how grandiose, I am where I am meant to be!