17 August 2013

The Church That Brought Me Home

Listening to a certain music tonight, my mind flashed back to walking campus in the Fall, crossing through one of the buildings to cut down on time to get to the chapel. In my mind, I entered it in the brilliance of the morning, sunlight filtering through stained glass and reflecting off the marble. I thought instantly of the Crucifix where I gazed at Jesus, probably for days in total, at Mass and in free moments when I had the time to visit. My thoughts next drifted to the Pieta statue on the right side of the church, to which I felt particularly drawn when I first began attending Mass. Directly above this statue is a painting of the Holy Family, with Mary gazing fondly at the Child Jesus. The compassion in her face inspired many a prayer to be myself half as good a woman and mother one day.

Then I remembered the stand-out moments and Sacraments. The first night I stepped into the church with some nervousness and steeling of breath. I can never recapture the stillness of the moment. My mind did not wander. It is as if I were standing at the threshold of a secret door, with a light I could just make out at the edges of the frame. I feel as if I peered into the moment of that Mass as down a shadowy corridor. Four months later I would find myself drawn once again to the chapel in a back pew between classes "just wanting to pray in silence for a minute," but finding myself with tears streaming down my face, acknowledging all my neglect of God and worthwhile living. I think that was the first time I really acknowledged Christ's presence. I wouldn't be sitting too far from that seat when another year later, week after week, daily Mass made me (dizzy from incense) hungry for the Eucharist with a fierceness I never would have expected.

And then taking one brilliant step forward to kneel in the glimmering chapel in the early morning after my first Confession, breathless again, but this time nothing was still. Light, emotions, thoughts were bouncing brilliantly that morning in a way which only makes me look back now in near disbelief (near, because I know it was real; disbelief, because it was too real). It was as if the air had changed, as if I could see things differently and clearly. Then a light rain began and I imagined it a sign of the grace that I hoped had just fallen down on me.

And then the slow steps at Easter Vigil, being sealed with the Holy Spirit as Monsignor made the Sign of the Cross on my forehead in oil, breathless as always as I knelt and offered myself to Jesus' Church and Jesus offered Himself to me--body, blood, soul and divinity--and opening my eyes to see the Crucifix again, and always. The Eucharist was bitter and sweet, death and life, impossible and perfect at the same time.

Remembering that church fills me with longing. It was where everything began: the first time trying to really understand Catholicism, the first time the same readings of the day for everyone in the Church went from limiting/oppressive to unitive, the first time I felt drawn to a place because I felt God there, the first time I began to love a Mother I've never even seen, the first time Latin prayers fell from my tongue, the first time I confessed and felt truly forgiven....

My attachments grasp specific, ordinary objects like "that pew" or "this slant of light" or "the marble here" to keep the memory full, but each of these church-specific objects inspire my thoughts to holy actions and beliefs. My life changed, I became a different person, in that church. That church feels more like home to me than any other place because that church is where I started coming home to the Church. I will be thankful every day for that change, and for the prayers and work (though people probably didn't realize what work they were doing) that brought me to the chapel on a Winter night, and back on a Spring morning, and back every week; back dragging my feet with uncertainty, back in a rush, back nearly bounding to the altar; back and broken-hearted, back and joyful, back and torn, back and earnest; back and begging, back and praying, back and singing, back and proudly professing the Credo; back and forgiven, back and Confirmed, back and reunited with the Church. Back, always back home to Catholicism.


  1. This is a great post, and this is a great blog. I just read about four of your posts. (College & Modernity and Easter Vigil I,II&III.) You're a great writer and you have interesting stories. I look forward to coming back.