It was right next to me; the cure for all my ills. At least the license plate was, in bold capitals. PANACEA. I did a double take as I was loading groceries into my trunk, noting the sleek, black, luxury car parked next to my grimy mocha flavored VW with its latte interior. There I was, in an ordinary neighborhood doing the very ordinary chore of grocery shopping at an ordinary supermarket in ordinary time. PANACEA. An interesting choice for what we call “vanity plates”. I wondered what cure the car was granted that afforded such a notable license plate.
I wondered some more as I unloaded my lettuce and bread and apples and tidied up the kitchen before our dinner guests arrived. Good food with good friends, late into the Saturday night, was most certainly the cure for the January blues that tend to hover after the holidays.
I wondered again as I crawled, tired but contented, into bed, seeking a long winter’s night rest for my weary bones after a flurry of entertaining activity. Surely, a good sleep was panacea for fatigue, was it not?
I stopped wondering mid-morning Sunday after Jennifer and I took a short ride into the City. We were a few minutes late. The Mass Ordinary had already begun. We quietly slipped into a pew. I bowed my head, listening to the chants of the Benedictine monks and immediately felt the sensation of being at home as the familiar smell of incense entered my sphere of worship. Food for the soul; exactly what my inner doctor might have ordered. Gregorian chants, incense, and the peaceful stillness of monastic life was a pure panacea, a universal remedy indeed.
The Monastery of the Holy Cross is a contemplative house of worship nestled quietly into the Bridgeport neighborhood in the bustling city of Chicago. Bridgeport is what is often termed a working class neighborhood. It is also known as the neighborhood that bred many of Chicago’s mayors, including the Daleys. The monastery is housed in one of the many Chicago Catholic churches whose doors were closed in the 1980′s. The church eventually became the home of Benedictine monks.
An urban monastery that offers Silence in the City, Holy Cross bestows “Peace to all who visit here” to all who pass through its doors; a contemplative life in a busy and noisy city.
There were no musical instruments played during the mass, only the voices of the monks and parishioners, as sweet and pure as the incense wafting upwards to the stained glass windows and heavenly angels that floated overhead in this gothic structure. I closed my eyes and breathed it all in, as if in a collected breath. The voices of the monks were strongest in their Gregorian chants, but a distinct soprano could be heard of angelic beauty and an alto, clear and precise in his ancient Latin as he held a toddler in his arm. A baby cried and the bells chimed, and I thought again of the word that comes from Greek mythology, panacea. It is interesting, is it not, all the meanings and thoughts a word on a license plate can conjure?
Thank you, dear Jennifer, for my Sunday cure, our visit to the monastery and time of worship there, not to mention the treats in the nearby coffee shop, and an interesting ride through the City as we took the time for a “slowing down” of our hectic lives and found that peace offered in our visit to the Holy Cross Monastery.
Information about the Monastery of the Holy Cross, including the Bed and Breakfast and the guesthouse they have available, and be found at their website: chicagomonk.org/ The image is from the monastery’s website.