“We say a few Hail Marys and we think about Heaven for awhile,
and then we are almost merry when the sun comes up.” Fr. J.B. Chataigner SM
A couple of years ago I managed to borrow a copy of Sean Brosnahan’s inspiring book commemorating the centenary of Sacred Heart Basilica in Timaru. I tried to buy a copy but the limited print run had sold out within a month. You can see why from the opening paragraphs:
When I drive up over the final hill towards Timaru from the south, I am looking for just one thing. When I see the dome of the Basilica – it suddenly pops into view as you crest the summit just past Kingsdown – I know I am nearly home. It seems to float there, this magnificent building that oddly enough is near the edge of town. Such a fabulous edifice seems more like something that the whole town should be built around. Yet there it is, a miracle in creamy limestone and verdigris copper, dominating Timaru’s southern approaches. There is nothing else like it in the city and no other building that comes anywhere near its imposing presence on the townscape.
As a child, I revelled in the light and colour of Sacred Heart’s interior. There was the richness of the stained glass: scenes from the life of Christ in the main body of the church, a roll call of saints above the sanctuary and along the nave. The statues were further markers of Catholic identity – St Peter Chanel, the Madonna and Child, the Angels, St Joseph. Just sitting there, you could quietly absorb 2,000 years of Catholic tradition. The ornate marble altar absolutely intrigued me. I wondered if there wasn’t some secret doorway set into its columns and decorative panels that would open directly into heaven. I can recall looking up at the limestone pediment that stretches right around the church, just above the Ionic columns, and thinking how cool it would be to crawl along it, checking there for the same secret entranceway to paradise.
The Basilica seemed like something ancient and timeless, a little piece of eternity that had taken root amongst us…
I was delighted to find that Sean has made his work available as a pdf, ideal for download into a tablet. You can read it at this link.