Finding Magic in the Cathedral

By Peers, Michael | Anglican Journal, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Finding Magic in the Cathedral


Peers, Michael, Anglican Journal


Emma and I were walking in the park by Holy Rosary Cathedral in Regina, and she pointed to the towers of the cathedral, tall twin spires that mark the western skyline of the city, and said in French, her first language, "Look at the castle, Grandpa!"

My first reaction, as an adult speaking with a three-year old, was to correct her. "Emma, ma chore, ce n'est pas un chateau, c'est une cathedrale." But I decided against that, and she and I and Grandma walked on to the swings and the slides, our real goal.

Later in the day I began to think about the perception that a church could be mistaken for a castle. Certainly many medieval cathedrals dominated their surroundings as formidably as any castle could. Built of stone, when most houses were built of wood or even less substantial materials, they communicated that domination by outward appearance.

And, I further ruminated, what was true of the building could be true of its occupant. The castle had its lord; so did the cathedral. Lords temporal and lords spiritual, as they say in England to this day. But not only England. I have attended the consecration of a newly-built African cathedral where the bishop's "throne" was high up the east wall, facing the people, more than a dozen steps higher.

I recalled a conversation with another primate about the problem of trumpets at installations of bishops. Trumpet music is inspiring in a very special way, but used misguidedly it can communicate a message about leadership that runs absolutely contrary to Jesus' words on the subject, words about servanthood and friendship.

I recall the Episcopal ordination of a friend where the sermon was all about servant ministry (the message that the bishop--elect wanted to communicate), but the music conveyed a different message, and so strongly that the headline in the newspaper the next day read "Drums Roll as Prince of Church Crowned".

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