Basilica of St. Lawrence

Planning for Mass while traveling is tricky business. Where’s the nearest church? Will I have a rental car? Can I even get there, with my flight schedule? As I was figuring out my Sunday plans while visiting a friend this weekend, she turned to me and said, “Or, you can go to the minor basilica downtown.”


Wikipedia tells me the church was built in 1905, and was elevated to a minor basilica in 1993. It’s on the national register of historic places and is the only basilica in western North Carolina.

I arrived super-early, since I was in a rental car (bigger than my standard Corolla) and unsure about downtown parking. But I was so early that I got a space in the small lot behind the basilica. I’d planned to play tourist in my free time, walking around to check out all the details I missed on my first visit there (in my pre-Catholic days). Instead, I took a seat. I was in the midst of a long weekend surrounded by friends, who I adore, but needed some down time. I took out my St. Francis de Sales book to do some reading.

I wasn’t alone in my early arrival, and soon understood why—a half-hour before Mass began, the prayers of the rosary echoed in the nave. I tucked a bookmark into my book, dug through my purse, and pulled out my rosary beads.

We’re often rushing around to get to church. People sneak in the back during the procession, or walk in during the readings. I try to arrive early, but it doesn’t always happen. But that quiet before Mass… it’s nice. As I prayed with those around me, I understood that that is what Sunday is for. Not for speeding down the highway desperately trying to be on time. Not for reluctantly pulling yourself out of bed. Mass is an invitation from God to be with Him. It should be respected as such.

There was a good ten minutes of quiet after the rosary, before Mass began. I tried to go back to my book, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t the time for reading; it was the time for quiet, and to listen to God. During Mass, the pews were packed. I didn’t think there could be so many people in those first several rows. This wasn’t just a “thing to do” on a Sunday morning. It was a preparation for the day to come. It was starting the week off right.