Welcome to wherever you are
This is your life, you made it this far.
Welcome, you gotta believe
That right here, right now,
you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be…
– Bon Jovi, “Welcome To Wherever You Are”
The same multi-colored stained-glass windows that streams in the sunlight, the same fourteen stations of the cross sculpted on muted walls, the same portraits of Mary and Joseph hanging humbly beside the altar.
The same crucifix above the same sanctuary, the same tabernacle.
The same wooden plaques that read the morning’s chosen hymns; the same alcove that holds dozens of flickering votive candles – dozens of wishes, dozens of pleas…
Dozens of prayers.
It’s a different church, but still the same. It’s all the same. And I wonder, now, how I could have thought that it would be any different.
Maybe I’d hoped that I would be different, walking through the doors of the chapel for the first time in years to celebrate a good friend’s newborn son’s baptism. Maybe I was so hoping for something to have changed within me, for something to move me, for something to speak to my heart; maybe I had convinced myself that I’d been gone for so long that, upon returning, something would have to have changed.
The same procession, the same Gloria in Excelcis, the same Liturgy.
The same Eucharistic Prayer – and suddenly I spy a little girl dressed in a white gown sitting in the front row, ready to receive her First Holy Communion.
The same Lord’s Prayer – and suddenly I’m a little girl myself, nestled between my parents and mouthing the words to a prayer I’d never fully memorized, hearing the echoes of the congregation around me and trying to keep up with the words I can only guess (incorrectly) are coming next.
The same Agnus Dei – and suddenly I’m holding back tears. Because, suddenly, the piano notes of Lamb of God take me back to when I’m ten and singing in the children’s choir, and the familiarity of it all becomes too much.
Suddenly, I’m moved. But not in the way that I expect or that I had originally wanted… No, instead, I’m moved in the way of nostalgia, moved in the beauty of the ritual, moved in the way that I know that I’ve missed God, missed myself.
And I think, I don’t have to believe in the tenants of this church anymore to still find it beautiful.
And I don’t have to believe in its teachings in order to find God.
I can still believe without religion. I can still pray without church.
I can still love God.
I can still love.
I can still be loved.
Loved by God. Loved by others.
Maybe I can even love myself.
And I think, maybe, right now, that’s enough for me.
Maybe that’s all I need.
Maybe it’s the change I’ve been longing for.