Sitting in an Empty Chapel

Creaking rafters that hold up so much more than this newly built ceiling.  They settle in like so many times before or slightly nudge in to one another as the wind blows over the roof.

I barely remember the first time I stepped into this chapel.  It was a different building then.  I was home on a break from college -probably freshman or sophomore year.  We were squished into the pew, my brothers and sister and I, somewhere closer to the back of the chapel.  It seemed like it should be cold in the chapel, with its grey walls and the huge paper maché colored Jesus statue taking up most of the back brick wall.  But all those warm bodies packed together must have kept the heat in.  Now all the colors are warm – the walls a creamy off-white, the wood a comforting rustic shade.

In here I feel safe.  Warm and dry within this structure that reminds me of a boat, an ark.  Now, in here alone in the middle of the week, only silent memories surround me.  There’s plenty of space to see them play and replay.  And the shafts of sunlight highlighting the pews create the illusion that time has looped in on itself and all these moments exist beside and on top of each other:  that step where I stood during the blessing of the spring break service trip team; that square tile that marked my place in my sister’s wedding; the podium where I stumbled through my first reading and then confidently read off announcements for mass one year later; the back row of chairs that we rearranged for a bible study; and that pew where time stood still for the first time.

Sometimes I used to come up to the balcony to pray during the week, just to get a different perspective or when I wanted to feel more removed –for those moments when I was ready to leave but couldn’t just yet.  That somehow sitting above the darkened chapel would take me up and away from a place that it seemed I had grown out of.

But now, sitting within these memories, I feel surrounded by friends, loved and embraced.  I could lie down on the cushions of this pew and stare up at the ceiling and feel carried through quiet waters.

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