In the first post, I wrote about how a certain place means home to me, how important the place and things are. Yes, it all seems materialistic. At the root, home is people and memories and security. But for me, the place, the physical representation of that, is important. It’s a foundation. I’ve had an extremely stable upbringing, and that is represented in how safe and loved I feel just by being in my parents’ house. Maybe this attachment to a physical home is what led to my belief in the need of a physical church.
I once had an argument with a boyfriend about church weddings. I mentioned how I had always planned on getting married at my church, not because I’m control freak (well, I am, but that wasn’t the main reason), but because it was my religious home, and marriages should take place in churches because both are sacred. And we weren't seeing eye to eye on that because he didn’t see churches as sacred. “They’re just buildings.” And while I had heard people profess before that a church is really the people, not the building, this was the first time I think I had truly talked to someone who didn’t see any value a physical church. (He didn't have a church family as his family church hopped a lot. I'm completely aware of how upbringing affects opinions on this.)
This was all before I was Catholic. Part of my journey to Catholicism was learning, “Oh, there’s a group of Christians that think like me, only they explain what I think 100 times better because they’ve been around 100 times longer and are 1.2 billion times bigger than me.” One of these beliefs was that sacred space was sacred, that some places, through events or rituals or just collective memory, were holy. That’s why, way back in the day, the Church let Germanic tribes keep some of their native traditions, but outdoor worship wasn’t one of them. Worship and mass needed a sacred space. The Body needed a tabernacle.
Yes, the Church is really about people. Yes, the treasures of the Church are her most needy believers. Yes, all of creation is sacred in that it is God’s. But I think many people get so caught up in “the building doesn’t matter” mentality that they don’t see the benefits in having sacred homes. The space gets marginalized, to the point that a "sanctuary" is just a carpeted stage with a power point screen, a la convention center.
I feel at home at the Presbyterian church where I was raised. I’m at home there even when I go sit in the dark sanctuary alone. That one pew is still “my” pew, and I fondly love that oh-so-1970s Ordinary green that I complain about. I’m at home there because of all the memories of others’ making that place sacred for me. And likewise, I can go to a Catholic church anywhere and be at home. I don’t know anyone there; I don’t always get the culture. I internally complain about ugly architecture or awful music. Yet, the place is still sacred, so I’m at home. I'm encircled by the Stations. The water is holy; the Eucharist is consecrated; the space becomes a witness to the miracle and grace. The building is a pivot one can go to when being a Christian on the outside gets difficult. It provides the Church Militant a refuge.
There, in my sacred home, I am able to feel accepted and comforted, whether all alone or in a crowd of strangers. I look around and see the little mementos that remind me of God. I return to my start and feel complete.