Lately, I find myself on a particular bench in the gardens surrounding the Mission—the old, magnificent stucco sanctuary that sits in the center of our campus. Birds of Paradise, with their green stems and orange beaks, line the wall behind my clean, wooden seat. In front of me the squirrels dance, and the spring roses smile back at me, their blossoms as large and round as my face.
It is beautiful, astoundingly so, but that is not why I find myself here time and time again. In my final days at this university, I wonder when exactly this sacred seat became “home” to me. That is what beckons me to it these days—the comfort of home—not merely the aesthetic beauty, as much as I do delight in the surrounding scenery. I return here because of the mysterious fact that this garden grotto—once unknown to me—has now become so familiar.
When did this happen?
Was it on one night when I escaped to this bench to pray? When, overwhelmed and discontent, I asked God how I would make it through the next hectic day and set of exams?
Was it the day when I read Rahner’s Christology here, looking down upon the grass swaying in the wind to realize in a moment of wonder how Christ must have encountered the world, fully and completely?
Was it during one of the countless conversations I had on its beams, laughing or debating with those I love most?
When did this place become “home”?
It strikes me that religion is a lot like this, too. We live our lives on its pews and kneelers, and one day, realize it has become a real part of us, not just something that we do, or a place that we go. Sometimes I wonder if there was a single moment when I became a Catholic—if it was a particular sacrament or sacred moment, a specific homily or consecrated host. Or whether it is all of these things, still converging and accumulating within me, that make this faith my “home.”