The churches we've visited this week (and I've lost track of how many we've gone into) have been amazing works of architecture, filled with art done by famous sculptors and painters. We've walked on stone floors worn from centuries of use, we've seen the tombs of famous people, and we went up a belltower for a fantastic view. Outside one church, Urban Sophisticate took off her shoes and I boosted her up to a spot where my brother had hidden a coin. (Yes, that coin was still there.) As we'd walk through quiet cloisters or admire works of art, my father or mother or sister would chime in with interesting facts they'd read somewhere. "Did you know that this whole church is resting on wooden pilings?" or "Did you see that tomb? Dead Painter Who Liked Redheads is buried there."
But my favourite thing to do in a church is, simply, to light candles. While the rest of my family would disappear to stare at the magnificent paintings, I'd go over quietly to the racks of candles, usually propped up near a statue or altar, and put a coin in the metal offering box. I lit candles for a friend whose wife had surgery this week, for a friend who is having scary health problems, for a young friend who is dealing with issues from his childhood, for a friend who is untangling complicated relationship issues, for a friend who is getting a divorce, for a friend who is having a difficult summer. From across the ocean, I knelt in these centuries-old stone churches, said prayers for people I care about, and watched flames flicker above dripping wax.