Walking Back into the House of the Church

14 Aug

A lot of Catholics have left the Church, and whether it was out of lack of care or serious disagreements with the Church’s beliefs, many of us get the feeling that maybe we should go back to church and give it another try. As Catholics, we are given the gift of guilt at our baptism, and it will always remain with us. We are meant to go to church, to be part of a greater church community. When we neglect this inner need to go to church, usually our guilt seeps in. It is hard sometimes, however, to go back to church because we feel so distant, or worried we won’t remember how to be in church. We are afraid that we won’t remember the Nicene creed and others will hear us say it wrong, or we will sit when we are supposed to kneel. We probably have important questions about transubstantiation or the Church’s stance on various social issues.
Returning to church is intimidating, and even though we may not be fully present and participating, it does not mean we should avoid going. It seems that no matter how long you are away from church, you still have strong memories of being at church. These memories are part of us as Catholics; they are part of the experience of the mass. Of course there are greater reasons to go to church than a trip down memory lane, but if a trip down memory lane will get us in to church, so be it.
Though we may forget a lot of the goings on in church, we will never forget some of the physical feelings of being inside of a church. Maybe it is the memory of the smell of incense, the creak of kneelers in the pew, or the rattle of rosary beads coming out of the side chapel from an old woman’s hands. It might be the cool feeling of holy water on your forehead, or the firm yet clammy grip of your neighbor’s hand as he smilingly says, “peace be with you.”
Maybe you are not ready to return to a church service. However, there are so many beautiful churches in these cities; some are open to the public during the day when there are no services going on. I would suggest starting out there. Ease your way back into being in a church by simply spending time in the quiet beauty of domus ecclesiae, the house of the Church. You do not have to rush into this, but don’t think your Catholic guilt will go away, or that nagging feeling that you may be missing out on something greater than yourself. So please, come back to church. Let me be the first one to extend a clammy hand to welcome you.

 

-Joe McAlister

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