In your Faithful Admiral’s travels within Florida, I came across not one, but two basilica’s. The first was at The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine, Florida. The second was in Daytona Beach. It was the first church to receive designation as a basilica in America by Pope Benedict XVI. This is the Basilica Of St. Paul in Daytona Beach.
This was a must see as it was close to where we were staying in Port Orange. So, we spent Sunday morning at mass at St. Paul’s. The mass was a delight. It was more formal, but very open and friendly. The church building was over 85 years old (the parish is 125 years old).
The church is similar in some aspects to St. Thomas More Church. In fact, the baptismal font is identical in design, but smaller and no walkway into the pool. The fountain overflows loudly and with authority. There is no doubt that the water is pouring into the deep pool. The sounds of cascading water echoes throughout the quiet church and enrich the experience of meditation and prayer.
Several things struck me as I was comparing our church to the basilica. The Blessed Sacrament was again behind the altar framed by a series of Romanesque columns. Above the altar is a massive dome that is lit as the candles receive their flame. It was humbling to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. As each person walked up the center aisle you could see humility and respect for the Lord’s presence. He was not hidden away in an alcove or another room. He was here waiting for us to join in the mass.
As the mass concluded and we took time to appreciate the beauty of the church, we lit a candle. No, it was not one of the typical small candles we see in most churches. The candles in the basilica were massive quart size glass bulbs full of wax. They will burn for days to remind others that prayers were said and are remembered.
Six grottoes lined the walls, three on each side. As I looked at each one and took in the significance of each, I came upon Divine Mercy. It was the newest statue added to the collection of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart, and other religious. And, there, I stopped in amazement. I exclaimed, “It’s Divine Mercy!” Just then, an elderly lady was approaching in a wheelchair. She proudly said, “Yes, it is Divine Mercy. We just got it.” Below the statue were twelve large candles shining brightly and bearing witness to those who asked for His blessing.
Outside, in the Narthex, there were not one, but two Apostolic Blessings from Pope John Paul II. Divine Mercy was his cause, and he passed on the weekend of the Feast of Divine Mercy. The first Mass of Repose for Pope John Paul II was said on Divine Mercy Sunday.
And, as our visitation was drawing to a close, we headed back through the Narthex. For the first time I spotted it, the flag of our Nation. It was proudly displayed in its own alcove. The first time I have seen our national ensign in a church at a place of high honor. No, this was not a military town. It is far from it. Known for drag racing, wild parties, and college kids out of control, the people of the parish were showing their pride in God and Country.
There many other memories created during our visit, but this is just a short story to share with you the beauty, love, charity and faith of our brothers and sisters in Florida. And, of course, the 165 Knights of Columbus of the Third and Fourth Degree. These soldiers of Christ were at the entrances to the church with their hands open in friendship and a smile on their face to welcome all who come to share in prayer, praise and the bread and wine of God’s table.