My Favorite Cathedral

Many Glacier

There are churches that I love spread across the many places I have lived and/or traveled to. When I was in college I used to drive to Indiana to visit the Saint Meinrad Archabbey: the archabbey of the Swiss-American Congregation of the Benedictine Order. The church there is incredible but what I really loved is the Monte Cassino Shrine, a small church near there. I remember that church as the first place I ever wanted to get married. It’s a very old church and when I was there the interior colors were done in deep blue (always one of my favorites) and white. There is something very calming for me about those colors, something clean. Or maybe pure would be a better word. Yes, that church possesses a sense of purity to it that I loved instantly.
Another favorite is in Sedona, Arizona of all places. I do not love Sedona. Everything there is “Red Rock This” or “Vortex That” Sedona has always been a case study to my mind – a perfect example of what happens to an incredible natural wonder if it is not protected. It never fails to make me sad to see it. But there is one corner of that place that I like. There is small church (not the church of the Red Rocks – beautiful as that one is) the church I am thinking of is the chapel inside the shopping area called Tlaquepaque. I photographed a wedding there once. It’s another small church, even smaller than Monte Cassino but in the cacophony and chaos of Sedona this little chapel stands apart as a place of peace.
I love the crypt at the Basilica of St. Francesco (aka Saint Francis) in Assisi. I love the Way of the Cross at Lourdes. There was this one church, in Florence, I shall never forget because instead of silence they filled the church with soft recordings of Gregorian Chant. The sound of those musical prayers added a depth to the holiness of that particular place.
These are all places that I love. They are places that have remained in my heart and when I return to them, in photos or in my own memories, I am still touched by the peace of these places. But of all the churches I love I have found a new favorite here in Montana. Glacier. It’s my favorite cathedral.
Every time I enter the park I feel that I have come into the church that God Almighty carved out of the mountains for Himself.
I missed church this morning. Not because I overslept but rather the opposite. I am not sleeping well these days, my asthma has been troubling me. I woke up sans alarm at 4:31 and in a moment of sleep deprived insanity decided that it was early enough that I could take a shower and still make it up to Glacier for sunrise.
Sunrise is set for 7:11 a.m. (Mountain Time). That’s actual sunrise, when the sun breaks the horizon. Photographer sunrise is anywhere from one to two hours prior to that. It’s when the sky first starts to lighten. When you take your tripod and make long exposures with light that only just barely there. I forgot to calculate for that so in spite of the fact that I left the house at 5:30 in the morning, I still didn’t make it to Wild Goose Island as early as I had wanted to be there.
But, even though I did not get the sunrise shot I had been hoping for I still had an amazing morning. How can you not have a good day when the sun is shining and you are surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains on earth? And I did have some very nice light early on, even if I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be.
My first glimpse of sunrise was a mountain peak glowing almost red in the morning light. It was far from my location so it felt almost hidden behind the closer mountain slopes, but when I came around the curve and got a real look at it I knew that I was in for some amazing light that morning.
I made my way up Going-To-The-Sun Road. Up and over Logan Pass. Down past the rocks and water falls to Wild Goose Island. The nice thing about being in the park early, early in the morning is that you can stop in the middle of the road, get out of your truck and take a picture. Normally this is impossible. There is too much traffic, too many fellow visitors and too many horns to honk at you if you dare to impede their progress. On my way up to Logan I had some amazing views of the highest peaks with their light dusting of new snow.
Yes, snow. In September. Welcome to Montana. This morning’s cold temperatures and snow capped peaks were a much needed reminder to me that the time is short now. Soon that road will close again for the year. It will get snowed in and won’t open until next June. Late next June, possibly next July. I want to make sure that I am up there these days, making the most of this last chance before it slips away completely.
After driving to Wild Goose I decided that today was the day I would make my first trip up to Many Glacier. I had never been that far into the park. I have heard it said that you can’t visit Glacier and not go see Many Glacier. I understand that argument better now. Many Glacier is another I shall have to try to get back to  at least once more this year.
With all my driving it quickly became obvious there was no way I would make it back to Kalispell in time for church. As it turns out I didn’t make it home until the afternoon. It feels as if it has been a very long day, and since I started at O Dark 30, that’s really not surprising. But it was a good day. A day without regrets. A day for photos and gratitude and appreciation. Days like this I am most sincerely thankful for my life and all that I have been given. Most especially those moments when I can feel the presence of God in the world He created. I didn’t make to church, but it was still a day of worship.
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