Monday, May 24, 2010

The Big Picture

We recently returned from a brief trip East, which meant that we spent a good deal of our travel time in Quebec.

I think I have mentioned Quebec before.  For hundreds of years it was a bastion of Catholicism in Canada.  The remnants of that can till be seen nearly everywhere you go in the province.  I am not going to dwell upon what I've said before.

I did have another thought though, as we drove past so many old stone churches in tiny little communities.

The big picture.  Perserverence.

Driving along Highway 20 in Spring is lovely.  Windy, but lovely.  You drive along the St. Lawrence River, which is impressive in its length and breadth.

I was thinking about how cold it must be in the winter.  The wind...and all the old houses that would at one time have been heated with wood, without fancy argon filled double paned windows or fiberglass insulation.  Cold!  Yet for several hundred years, people have lived here.

And they built churches.

Not the modern, spare barns we so often see, but stone churches with bell towers (with real bells).  They are often graced on the inside with many pieces of lovingly carved wood (I'm specifically thinking of the church at St. Jean Port Joli.  Amazing carvings throughout, and added over many years), paintings and real gold.

Even when they were built, these churches were not cheap.  But they arose from the labour and sacrifice of the people who would use them.  And often, it would take more than a generation to complete the work.

Why did relatively few people, with little money, contribute vigourously to the building of Churches they might not see completed? Why would they not spend their money and efforts on their own homes and families?

I think they had a better vision of the 'big picture' than we tend to have today.  We want to see return for our time and money.  We want to see it quickly and we want to see it in an earthly sense.  Eternity takes too long.

In times when infant mortality was higher than it is today, and when diseases we barely think about today could kill you, earthly existence was seen as fleeting.  People had a greater grasp of Eternity.

Besides all that, they had a greater sense of these church buildings being the resting place of the Body of Christ.  The King of Kings.  It was worth it to make it the Church the very best that it could be, even if it took years, and sacrifice.

A slight aside:  A few years back, one of my children brought a book home from school about great Canadians.  One listed was Paul Emile Cardinal Leger.  I will not argue one way or another on his greatness, as I do not know much about him.  I do know that one of the attributes they mentioned which attested to his greatness was that he stopped building elaborate churches, so that the money could be used for purposes which would better suit the here and now.

This distressed me.  I would hope that a man of the cloth, and a Cardinal no less, would be able to see that building worthy, beautiful churches is not wasteful or extravagant, and that it is certainly not exclusive of using money for other purposes such as supporting schools or charity.  If the book I read was correct, Cardinal Leger did not think as I do.

Aside completed

I also think that the Quebecois of earlier generations may have had a better grasp on perseverance.  They got through those winters AND managed to continue building lovely churches...They didn't all move to British Columbia.  I think of how often I complain, who am not very near wintry winds blowing off a large body of water, when the snow plow takes too long to clear the street.

I think that these lovely buildings in tiny little towns and villages are something we can look to in admiration.

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