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The church as a sanctuary

Brenna Dempsey  |  21 August 2018

Brenna DempseyThe Church can mean different things at different points in our lives. A recent Catholic school graduate reflects on a trip to Europe where she discovered something new about the faith she’d grown up with.

I am surely not the only Catholic who has lost touch with their faith since leaving high school. During those six years, religion was all around me and it was sometimes quite stifling. I was too young to really know what being Catholic meant to me. In fact I’m probably still not quite sure.

I enjoyed the comfort and reverence that came with the peacefulness of school Masses. I enjoyed singing hymns with the school choir and being able to lead the school in prayer. But it always felt very old and out-of-touch compared with what we were dealing with and experiencing outside our school community, and so frequently within the walls of the school. Perhaps it was the way the messages of the Church were presented to us, or a lack of youthful representation among Church leaders, but it often seemed as though the Church didn’t really ‘get’ us. It was a club for old people and we didn’t belong.

Since finishing high school I have stopped attending Mass, but I have often found myself seeking out religion and trying to better understand how it fits into my life.

When travelling overseas last year I often found myself in local churches, sometimes seeking a break from the crowds and bustle of a big busy city, or sometimes to shelter from the weather. Churches became a place I knew I could rely on even when I was thousands of kilometres from home.

It was strange to me that I would seek out the Church in this way, that these religious buildings would be my sanctuary when I needed quiet or a place to sit. I have never found myself relying on the Church in this way before and I found it a little unsettling.

During high school, being a good Catholic was more about being a good person and looking after those less fortunate than me, rather than reading the Bible or attending Mass. In many ways those values have stuck with me.

In a world of celebrity Presidents, children and the innocent dying in indefinite detention, global warming and the seeking of financial gain above all else, I’ve come to recognise that what the Church offers is sanctuary. It provides spaces where we are invited to stop and think, to reflect on how our actions impact those around us and to be a little less selfish with our time and our love.

As Pope Francis say, ‘We begin building peace in our homes, streets, and workplaces: wherever we craft communion and community.’ That is certainly something I can live by.


Topic tags: womensspirituality, vocationsandlifechoices, thecatholictradition

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