This is a guest post by Paul Gallagher.
I moved to Maryland on August 14, 1989. I left my home in California to attend grad school at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and I was so excited to get started on this adventure. As I look back, I’m amazed at my lack of apprehension about leaving my family and friends and flying across the country. Ah, youth.
Since I knew I had to quickly find an apartment, I had made a reservation at a hotel close to Mount Vernon, the neighborhood where I wanted to live (mainly because of the cheap rent). It was late when I arrived at the hotel, and I was exhausted. When I woke up the next day, I remembered that it was August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was also the anniversary of the death of my grandfather, so I knew I wanted to try and make it to Mass.
After breakfast, I went to the front desk and asked if there was a Catholic church nearby. The man told me that there was a huge church in the next block. In fact, the street we were on, Cathedral Street, was named to honor this church.
As I walked towards the church, I saw that it was indeed big, and it was old. The architecture didn’t look like any Catholic church I knew, and I was anxious to get inside. Little did I know that I was stepping into the Basilica of the Assumption, the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the United States. (Its full name is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.)
As I opened the heavy door and walked inside, I was in awe. Even though the walls were painted grey and it was dark inside, the place was magnificent, and I could feel the holiness and grace present within this space. As I knelt in prayer, I had the strongest sense that I had come home, that I was meant to be in Baltimore. I still remember the feeling of peace that flooded over me that day.
Over the next two years, I went to Mass at the Basilica just about every day. I got to know the priests there, and for a time I worked there as a sacristan. Those two years also marked a deepening personal understanding of Mary in my life and in the life of the Church.
When I’m struggling with something, I often drive down to the Basilica of the Assumption, and I never leave without feeling a bit of that peace that flooded over me on August 15, 1989.
How have you been able to feel Mary’s presence in your life?
Paul Gallagher is an Educational Consultant at Loyola Press. Previously, he was the DRE at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster, MD, for over 10 years. Deeply rooted in Ignatian spirituality, Paul blogs about transformation and taking care of ourselves, body, mind, and spirit at www.makingallthingsnew.com.