I embarked upon a Lenten pilgrimage last week to the Holy Family Shrine in Omaha. I’ve wanted to stop there for years, seeing the stately barn-like structure — all glass and beams — rising above I-80 atop a lofty plain. Last week I finally got the chance.
The timing was perfect. I’d spent the afternoon at a stressful work event in Omaha, where I served as the official photographer. I had arrived there a full 35 minutes late, having gotten myself hopelessly lost on the way. Suffice to say, I’d found myself in Iowa instead of downtown Omaha. Yes, never mind the wrong city…I’d landed in the wrong state.
By the time I began the hour-long drive home, I was in dire need of tranquility. I exited the highway and followed the signs to Holy Family, mini van bumping and splashing down the muddy dirt road. As I crested the hill, I glimpsed the shrine, glass reflecting native prairie grass.
I had the place to myself, so I sat in the pew for 20 minutes or so, watching traffic glide soundless on the highway far below, resting my eyes on snowy expanse, the plains still like a gigantic, white blanket. A stream set into the stone floor below the pews flowed toward the altar, water trickling over smooth river rocks. Jesus hung high against metallic sky. I closed my eyes.
Holy Family Shrine is stunningly beautiful in its stark simplicity. Natural wood, vast panes of glass, arched, beamed ceilings, stone floor. It seemed to me a building built for rest — a quiet, still place to think and pray and gather oneself inward. I’m so glad I stopped; I just hope it doesn’t take me another five years to return.
Do you have a place that brings you peace and tranquility?