I pulled open the huge, heavy door of a Catholic church my first day in Madrid and was overcome by awe. The enormous scale, the elaborate ornamentation, the weight of the centuries literally stopped me in my tracks.
I felt humbled by this obvious expression of devotion. Who but the most reverent would spend months or even years carving intricate designs in wood and marble? The size of this edifice, with its bronzed and bejeweled statues, made clear where Spanish values lie. And this church was not rare—many others were equally if not more stunning. Clearly, this was an expression of devotion far greater than that to which I was accustomed.
Then Mass began. I stayed silently in back, not sure whether I was welcome or how to participate. But soon I noticed the rhythms of the responses and gestures seemed familiar. In fact, but for the language, I could imagine I was attending Mass at home in Indiana. I felt comforted by the universality of the celebration, at home in my faith even across the sea, and suddenly proud to be associated with people for whom being Catholic is a thing of awe.