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Richmond, Virginia: Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

When I lived in Richmond, I wasn’t much of a church-goer. In the three years I lived there, I can count the number of times I attended Mass on one hand. Zero. Now, seven years later, attendance at Sunday Mass is part of my life. I don’t intentionally miss it.

When planning our recent visit to Richmond, I found the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart has a Mass at 5:15 pm on Saturdays. It was a particularly convenient time, shortly after our arrival in town. It was also within walking distance of our hotel. We had a winner.

I was familiar with the area around the cathedral. It’s located adjacent to the main campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. I took some classes there years ago. We arrived a little early and strolled around the campus. I even remembered where to find a bathroom.

We arrived shortly before Mass began. The cathedral is stunning. It’s hard to believe such a grand cathedral was built for a city with such a relatively small Catholic population.

I read some of the historical markers. I got the impression that the original construction was financed almost entirely by one wealthy donor. He wanted Richmond to have a proper cathedral. It looks like he got his wish.

The Mass itself was disappointing the way a lot of Saturday evening vigils are. The homily, delivered by a rather passionate deacon, was probably the highlight. There’s a beautiful pipe organ, but it wasn’t being used, or at least not that I could tell. I’ll have to imagine what it would have sounded like with a full choir. If I’m ever in town again, perhaps I’ll attend Sunday Mass on Sunday.

We stayed for a little while after Mass ended to do a tour of the altars. Kathryn took a photo of me, praying briefly before the Blessed Sacrament at the altar of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It’s hard to pray when you know someone’s photographing you. Unless you’re Rick Perry.

An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe stands next to the altar of St. Mary. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of Phoenix, and I often associate the image with the Southwest and especially Mexico. It was the first time I remember seeing her image so far north and east.

Note: If you decide to visit the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, please try to avoid the city park across the street from the cathedral, especially after dark. The streets around the park are okay, but avoid walking through it.