Making time for God need not be a complicated process. On the contrary, it can be as simple as taking a moment to gaze at the world, to see it with God’s eyes. In doing so, we may be taken by surprise many times in the course of a single day: when we watch a sleeping child, for example, or notice the steady breathing of a loved one; when we see how the cobwebs on the downspout have turned to lace under the touch of frost, or notice one drop of dew on a rose petal. All of these are moments of retreat. They are all visits to the oasis in the depths of our hearts, where God is at home. . . . Ordinary time is suspended to make a little space for eternity to reveal itself.
– Margaret Silf, Going on Retreat: A Beginner’s Guide to the Christian Retreat Experience (Loyola Press, 2002)
This summer one of my oasis moments — what I call a sacred pause — was a visit to St. Boniface Cathedral in Winnipeg.
My Winnipeg weekend seemed very short and very full — a Saturday morning wedding rehearsal with the happy bride and groom Karina and Jonathan and their friends and family, followed by lunch and visiting all afternoon; then an evening barbecue and more visiting as my amazing friend, Anna-Marie, cut off her hair to raise funds for girls and women getting out of the sex trade in Bangladesh; Sunday morning worship at Charleswood Mennonite Church with my wonderful hosts Ron and Wendy; then officiating the wedding in the afternoon followed by the reception into the evening; Monday morning breakfast with more friends, and then my flight home.
Whew! It was a wonderfully rich weekend — and I loved every moment! — but I’m also very glad that I could arrive the afternoon before and start it all off with my very first visit to Winnipeg’s French Quarter and some quiet time at the cathedral too.
The church was first built as a small wooden chapel in 1818, and named after the eighth-century European missionary St. Boniface. Since then, it has been rebuilt five more times on the same site — several times to accommodate the needs of the growing congregation and twice rebuilt due to fire.
The magnificent front of the church is actually part of the ruins from a fire that destroyed most of the cathedral in 1968. Beyond is a courtyard formed on two sides by some of the old walls that still remain standing and behind by the new church building that was completed and blessed in 1972.
One of the things I love about the cathedral is the way the new church can be seen through the old — preserving the history and sense of place, and giving witness to the ongoing life and mission of the church that has continued through the centuries.
While fire might destroy the building time and again, the life of the church and the Spirit of God remains living and active through it all.
For more photos of the cathedral including the interior of the present sanctuary and its stained glass, see the Institute for Stained Glass in Canada.
I loved my sacred pause at St. Boniface Cathedral. What oasis — what sacred pause — are you experiencing this summer?