Awkwardly Seeking Solace: A Visit To Tulsa's Holy Family Cathedral

Dear Henry,

We are still squirreled away in this tiny smoke-filled apartment with the animals, and a couple of days ago, I just had to get away, at least for a moment. 

Ever since we moved, I've wanted to see the cathedral downtown but hadn't made the time to do it yet. So, since I really needed a bit of peace and because I would be able to make the Noon Mass, I decided to give the dog a piece of bacon and head downtown.

The story of the Holy Family cathedral began in the 1890s when the pastors assigned to the Muscogee nation would visit the area to perform Mass for the handful of families that lived there. While Bishop Theophile Meerschaert would receive permission to build a church in the Tulsa area from Muscogee elders, it would take until 1899 before enough money was raised to create a small, wooden Holy Family church, which was dedicated on September 10, 1899.  

Then oil was discovered in 1901, and the population of Tulsa boomed. The small church was swamped with parishioners, and plans for a new church began. The cathedral was finished in 1914.

It is a beautiful gothic-style church with twisty carved wood, stenciled walls, and impressive stained glass windows. The windows are the "Munich-style," made by the Royal Bavarian Stained Glass manufactory. They are replicas of the ones at the Royal Bavarian Art Institute, which was destroyed during WWII. The cathedral was renovated about ten years ago, and the colors inside are brilliant.

It is also a bustling place, running two or three Masses daily and offering reconciliations before each Mass. So I picked a spot toward the middle of the sanctuary and gawped at the windows while waiting for the Mass to begin. I was surprised how many others filtered into the church for the noon service, and right before it began, a man scooted around a pillar and sat on the pew (six feet away) next to me.

Normally, I wouldn't have thought much of it, and I certainly don't object to sharing a seat with a good-looking, nicely-dressed young man, but given the current COVID restrictions, it seemed a bit odd to have someone sit that close. So I just shrugged and assumed that the church must be full, and I was saddened by the thought that we were all afraid to be close to one another because of the virus.

It's always fun to hear how different parishes and different priests say Mass, even if you feel a little weird because they all have their individual styles. For example, the Holy Family Cathedral has a Cantor that sings their gospel acclamation during weekday Masses. When I heard the first notes of the "alleluia," I realized two things: The Cantor has a fantastic gift from God (his voice brought tears to my eyes), and I was sitting in the Cantor's seat.


But then, awkwardness at church seems to be a common theme for me, and I have always felt like I'm slightly out of place - or rather, I'm in the right place but in the wrong pew. Or perhaps, reading aloud the wrong page in the missal (I did that once!).

Fortunately, the church is a very forgiving place, and Jesus himself loved to embrace the "awkward" people. 

The Cantor even smiled and waved at me to let me know there were no hard feelings for stealing his spot.

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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