Our Ladye of Melbourne

Ladye Chapel, St Francis' Church - HDR by Dale Allman

With all this fuss about the new Pope, I’ve got a confession to make.

I’ve been going to church.

Not to masses per se. No, I’ve starting sitting in the front pew  just thinking.

It started a couple of weeks ago when I was walking along Elizabeth Street in Melbourne and noticed the imposing church of St. Francis. I thought I’d pop in for a peek. Or a stickybeak, as they say here. Inside I found this lovely little chapel called the Ladye Chapel where a painting of the Mother and Child hangs to the left of the altar.

I tucked myself into one of the pews and looked around, mesmerized by the beauty: the rose walls, stained-glass windows, the gold swirls, all shimmering in candlelight. I soon became aware that there were many like me, sitting quietly in the darkness. More people wandered in from the hot, sunny, busy street, in cut-off shorts, in business suits, in tied-dyed halter dresses. Each one  made a bee line for the painting and reached up to touch it like an icon.

I was amazed. In this crazy twenty-first century world men and women  still finding comfort in a 2000 year old tradition of touching an icon.

I stopped being a Catholic long ago. I couldn’t match my feminist ideals with an institution which seemed to have no place in its headquarters for women. (Though I do recognize the lifeline the church has been for the poor.)

But I’ve always loved old churches and the scent of incense and myrrh. And I especially love the idea of Mary.

I guess I really love the idea that someone is listening.

So I sit and say “Hey, it’s me again.”

And in my mind I hear her say, “How you doing, honey?”

Because for some reason– I don’t know why– she’s got this salt of the earth accent. This Seen-it-all attitude. She’s one of those women who is so busy she’s the only one who has time to do you a favor.

I picture her with lines on her face like a seabed and crazy grey hair zinging from her halo. She’s got floppy arms and a heavy belly under that blue robe.

But mostly she has a heart so big you can take yours and tuck it inside hers with all the others who have come in to touch her picture.

And I know– (I also know some of you might disagree with this)–that my not being a practicing Catholic is OK by her. Because love, as the Church agrees, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

So I like to say hello.

And she says hello back.

I chat about my worries.

She listens.

And when I finish she says, “Well, hon, I’ve heard worse.”

Of course, she says it the nicest way.

So I nod in agreement and tip toe out, trying not to bother the ones with the real problems.

photo by Dale Allman (flickr)

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Our Ladye of Melbourne

  1. “She’s one of those women who is so busy she’s the only one who has time to do you a favor.”

    Nina, this entire piece is simply beautiful. I feel much the same way—regardless of faith or liturgy, there’s just something about most churches that resonate peace and hope and help.

  2. ninakillham

    Thank you, Sarah. It’s a beautiful place. Really caught my imagination. x

  3. lovely, simply lovely…

  4. ninakillham

    Thank you, sweetie. Happy Birthday to you! xx

  5. Lisa

    I love this…after the year you’ve had this is something that is helping you in a way that sometimes only a place like this can.

  6. ninakillham

    Thanks, Lisa. Yes, it’s been quite a year. It’s a good place to take stock. xx

  7. Wow, how funny does our world work – I was searching Real Estate and came across your site – When I stepped in I discovered this post……My Dad proposed to my Mum in this church and my hubby had our engagement ring ‘blessed’ at that Chapel from the local priest….Oh what great feelings you have stirred in me this morning. Thank You! Cheers SorrentoMoon

  8. ninakillham

    Hi SorrentoMoon (love your name). Thanks so much for commenting. It is such a beautiful church. I smile at it everytime I’m on the 19 tram.

  9. Anne

    It is the main reason I have travelled to melbourne in the last couple of years……. First time was a month after my mother died. On my last trip a man told me he experienced his conversion there.
    No where in australia has such a chapel as this one.

  10. ninakillham

    Hi Anne, thanks so much for your comment. I am so sorry about your mother. The Chapel is such a lovely place to rest and contemplate.

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