think heaven

Jul 7, 2014

“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.

Thinking about Heaven
a history of Sacred Heart Parish, Timaru

1 Comment

  1. I spent a long time in the Sacred Heart parish and am so grateful that magnificent basilica
    was spared the fate of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Cathedrals and basilicas may go; let the Blessed Sacrament survive all that natural and supernatural calamity can throw at it.


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