Our Lady’s Churches in Montreal

My husband and I returned to Montreal for our first anniversary. Our primary destination was Saint Joseph’s Oratory, the place we went when first married (we were more inclined to start our marriage with a pilgrimage than a honeymoon, and who better than Saint Joseph to talk to about marriage?). The Oratory is large, austere, and can make one feel a bit of the pain that must have been the lot of the husband of the Mother of God.


But this visit we took the first day to see Mary’s churches. The first was the Notre-Dame Basilica.It was the Saturday which was also the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, so I really was not surprised to find that we could not enter the church due to a wedding.


We headed over to Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral. We were allowed to enter even though there was a wedding there as well. The cathedral was large enough that we were quite literally far from disturbing the wedding.


Much more obnoxious than tourists were the photographers who would not get out of the way! I am becoming a huge fan of all those church rules hated by brides. Anyway, the wedding was in English and the homily was great, so it was oddly perfect for my husband and I to sit in the back and have a reminder of what is what with Catholic marriage. We left right before the celebration of the Eucharist since we had to get back to the other church for Mass, but it was the perfect way to spend part of the afternoon.


I took the picture below on our way out of the cathedral. Non-Catholics may find it gruesome, but to me it is a reminder of what marriage is all about: dying for one’s spouse.


Back at the first church for Mass I quickly found myself wishing to be elsewhere. It was gorgeous, but so very odd to be celebrating Mass in what was run as a tourist destination.


It was impossible to say my normal quiet prayers after Mass due to the blast of the organ playing something for show rather than contemplation. I shared a little laugh with my God about the irony of it. But I was more horrified than laughing when there was only a moment of silence before a voice came over the speakers telling Mass-goers to get out of the church so that they could set up for a light show. There was time to snap a picture of a crucifix, but  time for only the most rushed of prayers in front of it.


It turns out that on a day dedicated to Mary, the best place to pray was a church dedicated to Patrick. I was kicking myself for not having stayed there for Mass (it is located between the other two churches) so my husband and I walked back to Saint Patrick’s to pray more. It was locked by the time we returned, so we sat on the grass outside and prayed together.


I am most grateful for the wonderful day, even the unwelcome reminder of how easy it is for religion to be turned into a cultural spectacle rather than connection with God.

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7 thoughts on “Our Lady’s Churches in Montreal

  1. Christy

    Wow. that is so frustrating! I was so grateful when I visited the Vatican and Notre Dame – I felt like the focus was still on God, rather than the tourism. Although, as a tourist, I did appreciate everyone’s consideration when I couldn’t speak the language!

    You asked if our church has any music restrictions. So far, I have found that if they sound appropriate, they are ok. I specifically asked about the wedding processional from “Sound of Music” and Fr. Dennis said he loves that idea! I think it helps that one of his focuses was music :)

  2. Christine

    What beautiful churches! They make me wish that I lived back east or in Europe – so much history! (I think that the oldest churches here are maybe 110-120 yrs old as an absolute maximum.)

    I agree with you – it’s sometimes more easy to forget God in such situations. I guess we all need to remember that these spectacular buildings were built for the Glory of God, not just to look pretty.

  3. Charleybrown

    I went to those same 4 churches last year! I hadn’t been to Montreal in years and had fun with a 4 day visit with my daughter. I was so happy to discover that Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral was just outside the train station since I hoped to see it and it wasn’t close to our hotel. We were just in time for mass before we headed to St. Joe’s Oratory. My daughter is hoping to go to Montreal in October for Brother Andre’s canonization.
    When we visited Notre Dame, the light show wasn’t on but I share your frustration with how some people seem to forget that these gorgeous churches aren’t just buildings to admire for their architecture but places of worship too!

  4. stephen m bauer

    I spent a weekend once in Montreal, a long time ago. I went to St. Joseph’s Oratory, the Notre-Dame Basilica, and the cathedral. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad that someone besides me liked those places in the same way.

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