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The Lady Chapel in Saint John’s Cathedral, Southsea, Portsmouth

A recent last-minute decision to visit Southsea allowed me the opportunity to spend a little time at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Portsmouth.

This magnificent Church, opened in 1882, is not the world’s largest Cathedral, certainly – but it is very beautiful and it is very dear to me. For many years, it was my parish Church and so I have many happy memories of the place. Consequently, returning to Saint John’s is – for me – coming home.

I think the Lady Altar in the Cathedral is probably the first place I ever saw which was specially set aside in honour of the Mother of God. I prayed at this Altar with my mother, now long gone.

As my life has moved forward, this little place has essentially stayed the same, untouched by the years. And here I prayed again, thinking of all those who have been dear to me as the years have passed, all those who have contributed to making me the person I am now. I know that the Cathedral parish continues to have a strong filial devotion to the Mother of God, and I have no doubt that She smiles upon this place and upon all who come here to honour Her.

It’s amazing how the Church – whether a grand metropolitan Cathedral or a small rural parish – influences us and becomes a part of us, as much as we become a part of it. Our memories and our affectuons are so often tied irrevocably to particular places, such as this Cathedral; returning to them, even many years later, seems to gently wipe away those years and take us back.

On the Saturday evening I went to Confession in the Cathedral, listening very carefully to the words the Priest offered, then attended Mass afterwards, which was very beautiful. It was a little moment of grace and I was very thankful for it.

At the little Blessed Sacrament Chapel, I laid out before the Lord all the intentions which fill my heart, asking His graces for many souls and also for myself.

And then, the visit was all over.

I came away grateful for this moment of grace, but I also came away just a little bit lighter – I had left a little piece of my heart there in that Lady Chapel.