I found myself thinking about places where I had important (for me) spiritual insights. In order of time:
10. Little Flower Church, Belfast, N. Ireland. Designed by my grandfather, it was from this church that I buried my father and mother. I love its small scale and simplicity. I always found it easy to pray there.
9. Malin Head, Co. Donegal. The most northerly tip of Ireland is wild and gorgeous. At Banbas Crown, after a vigorous dialogue with God, I chose to apply to the Jesuits.
8. Chapel in Manresa House, Dublin. The chapel is oval and simple and quiet and prayerful. I pronounced my vows as a Jesuit there.
7. Notre Dame de Paris. A huge bustling cathedral in a major European capital. Full of tourists year round, I still found it a serene and sacred space. I loved going to Mass there.
6. The Great Outdoor Buddha, Kamakura, Japan. Another tourist trap, but once I was there all alone on a cold February morning when it started to snow gently. I was transfixed with gratitude to God.
5. Niccoline Chapel, Vatican. I was wondering around the Vatican Museum and I came across this chapel with fresco paintings by Fra Angelico. I was stunned – almost to the point of breathlessness – by its beauty. Unforgettable.
4. Carmelite Monastery, Yamaguchi, Japan. Shortly after ordination, for several months I was the chaplain to the Carmel in southern Japan. The sisters were utterly luminous and I basked in their holiness.
3. St Mary’s Church, Baldwinsville, NY. I helped out at this parish for several years when I lived in Syracuse and came to deeply love the parish community. I still miss being there.
2. Villa Le Moyne, Cazenovia, NY. Someone gave the Jesuits a beautiful old house by a lake in upstate New York. I used to go there all the time and sit looking at the lake. It is a place of profound peace and solace.
1. Montserrat Benedictine Abbey, Spain. Set on a stunning mountain range, the monastery church is busy by day but quiet and consoling when evening falls. I have been there four times and can’t wait to go again.
So, what are your favorite spiritual hotspots?