I try to make it to Confession at least once a month and typically end up making it about twice per month. With the long lines at my parish, I have lots of time to think and meditate while I wait for my turn to receive absolution and a fresh start. I usually go on Saturday mornings when Confessions are heard right after the morning Mass. While in line, I'm able to observe fellow parishioners and their families soak up the replenishment that God's house offers. I feel a real sense of peace waiting in that line, one that reminds me that God's house is my home.
Our parishes are a safe refuge in the turmoil of the world. In the summer's oppressive heat, they're always delightfully cool. In the winter's bitter cold, they radiate warmth. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, with all of the pressures and responsibilities that go with it, the Church is still, calm, and peacefully quiet. I hope that when you're at Mass, you're able to experience this peace without the demands of your life disrupting your meditation and pulling you back into the stresses of your life.
Have you ever been in your parish when there wasn't anything going on? A random drop in on a Tuesday afternoon or at another time when you just stopped by to take a break and say hello to Jesus? There's something truly magical about these times in a Church. While Alison's family was in town, we visited the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. We were there on a Tuesday afternoon and the massive church was filled with only a few pilgrims. The sun's rays poured in through the windows and the entire marble Cathedral was still. The beautiful mosaics glimmered as light bounced around and the whole atmosphere was one of rest. There was no noise, except for Benedict's babbling, and there was no distraction. It was a place of peace, a place of prayer... it was home.
Churches are designed to connect us to our Creator. Their structural design and their interior design are all guided towards this end. Your Church may be physically laid out like a cross and adorned with stained glass windows depicting lives of the saints. Your Church may be physically laid out like a simple rectangle, but the interior design subtly draws you from the back of the church towards the altar. In the tabernacle God dwells among us, always waiting and ever present. At any time you can walk in, sit down, and pray in front of God Himself. What a wonderful thing!
We're blessed to have a safe haven in our parishes. Many countries around the world do not share this same status. We can go to Mass and not worry about armed gunmen coming to abduct us, or an errant round of artillery falling on the roof. We experience an open and welcoming place, even if not from our fellow parishioners, from God Himself, welcoming us into His home. Truly, our parishes are like a home in every way, except that sleep is generally frowned upon.
We have so many stresses and pressures assailing us from the moment we get out of bed until we close our eyes at night. Let's resolve to make better use of our parishes as places of peace and prayer. Let's spend more than an hour a week in these wonderful places that are more that just buildings, and instead are places of rest in a desert of struggle.