There are certain places that offer tranquility and repose. I was reminded of one such location recently when my mom sent me a photo of Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica decorated for Christmas. This church, first opened in 1926, is stationed mere blocks away from the home my grandfather currently lives in, which also happens to be where he and his two sisters were raised.
Each time I have the opportunity to visit the basilica’s hallowed halls, the scent of incense, the adorned ceiling, the gorgeous statues and the dimly lit candles provide a sense of peace, a feeling that things are going to be okay, that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.
This isn’t to say that I consider myself especially religious — don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into an article about the “War on Christmas.” In fact, as I pondered what makes Our Lady of Victory so special, I realized that the serenity that comes over me while I’m there is separate from the church as an institution.
It’s about acknowledging that I’m a part of something bigger than myself. When I walk down the aisle in search of a seat in one of the pews, I am reminded of how my mother walked down that same aisle in a white dress 22 years ago on an unusually beautiful day in December. When I look up at the altar, I recall the strong men and women that came before me, many of whom were laid to rest after masses said there. When I light a candle, I consciously step outside of my own anxieties to express gratitude and compassion for a family member or a close friend and wish them well.
Last week, while I was in Mount Vernon, I found a taste of what I love about Our Lady of Victory closer to campus in the form of the Baltimore Basilica, officially named The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Some history buffs might already know that in 1821, this became the first cathedral built in the United States and one of the first religious buildings constructed after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
While I don’t possess the same personal ties to the Baltimore Basilica, in the midst of finals season, it was calming to bask in the beauty of the space as well as to be reminded of all those who came before me, paving the way for me to attend Hopkins, and those that I’m lucky to have in my life now.
As the semester comes to an end, I encourage you to choose a space where you feel at home, be it a house of worship or Brody Cafe, take a few deep breaths and reflect on this year. What are you most proud of? What are you going to remember this semester? Who was a part of your success? How can you show them your gratitude, even if only by making time for them despite the chaos of these last weeks?
If you’re anything like me, you might be surprised by how much less stressed you feel after this relatively simple mental reset.