St Joseph’s Oratory

Pickles, having a look back at the Oratory
Pickles, having a look back at the Oratory

Pickles and I went for a walk on Wednesday and stopped in at St Joseph’s Oratory, which is very close to our home. So close, in fact, that we use signs around the city that indicate the way to St Joseph’s as signs to help us get back home.

It is really a very beautiful building. It’s huge, for starters. And it’s built on the side of a mountain, so when you’re up inside the building, and you look out, you can see a lot of Montréal. I could see the Orange Julep building from there!

A statue of St Joseph, with candles
A statue of St Joseph, with candles

When we first got inside, there were a lot of candles. This is only one of the many banks of hundreds of candles. Some of them were just there in rows and columns, but other sets of candles spelled out words. This one spelled something out, but I can’t remember what, and I can’t make it out on the photograph now. Oh, and if you go behind this bank of candles, it will lead you to a tomb for Frère André (who, as far as I could tell, still lives in the small chapel on the site). You can sign a petition to have him canonised!

A weird rock face at the back of the Oratory
A weird rock face at the back of the Oratory

If you go behind the next bank of candles, you can find a weird rock-face with a net over it. I guess it’s there because the Oratory was built into a mountain-side, and so they never bothered to do anything with this part of the mountain. I don’t think I would have either. I think it looks pretty cool.

If you go up a few escalators, you’ll eventually make your way to the Basilica, and one of the things that struck me when I saw it first in high school, that Pickles also mentioned, is that it has a very modern-looking interior. I suppose that is shocking because from the outside it looks like a very old building.

St Joseph's Oratory Basilica interior
St Joseph

On our way up, Pickles saw a sign saying “Basilique” with an arrow pointing up the escalator, and she asked what it meant.

“Oh, a basilique,” I answered, “It’s a sort of giant snake that kills you if it looks at you.”

Three of the apostles, as depicted in St Joseph's Oratory Basilica
Three of the apostles, as depicted in St Joseph

Inside the basilica, one of my favourite things is the carvings of the Apostles. They’re wooden, and huge, and kind of scary, but also kind of weird. Can you guess which three these are? I’ll give you 5 points if you can.

To give you an idea of the scale of these carvings, I don’t think that the top of my head reached the bottom of the Apostles’ feet.

On our way out, Pickles and I noticed a “reserved” set of stairs going up the mountain to the Oratory. If you read the sign, it says, “reserved for pilgrims who go up on their knees.” And you know what? People were doing just that. Old people. They did it while praying.

Maybe this is me being insensitive and too much of a Baptist for my own good, but it’s much easier to go up on your feet. In fact, if you can get up a little further, there are escalators too, so you don’t have to use your feet even that much. I went all the way up and all the way down and I didn’t have to be at all introspective or prayerful.

Stairs reserved for those who are going up on their knees
Stairs reserved for those who are going up on their knees

On the subject of Catholic things that I don’t understand, Pickles and I saw a prayer to St Joseph written out on a plaque for people to use. It was talking about how no requests, if prayed to St Joseph, will go unanswered.

For those of you out there who weren’t sure (like me) the “Joseph” that is referred to in “St Joseph’s Oratory” is the New Testament Joseph, Mary’s husband. So, it’s not referring to sold-into-slavery, dream-interpreting, Prime-Minister-of-Egypt Joseph from Genesis. To be honest, I don’t even know if he’s a saint.

I had an idea of what the Catholic church thought of Mary, but I guess this tells you what they thought of Joseph.

St Joseph's Oratory, behind a statue of St Joseph
St Joseph