A quick note… Some time after I first drafted this post, my high school chapel caught fire in the middle of the night and was completely destroyed. I have left the post below as it was originally drafted because I believe that those thoughts and feelings are still authentic and valid. Click here to see my additional blog post with discussions of the fire and the devastation it caused.
This is my high school chapel after it was renovated. In all honesty, I still have mixed feelings about it.
The old design of the chapel was very near and dear to my heart. It was where I had seen my sister go through school, and where I arrived a few years later. It was the room where my freshman induction was held, and where retreat and school Masses were held. It was the room where I fell in love with Eucharistic adoration and where I found my home every month when I returned to His displayed presence.
I remember hearing that the chapel was going to be renovated, and I was a little sad, but I figured it would happen after I graduated. Then I heard that it would be renovated in the midst of my senior year, that I would graduate inside the brand new chapel. I tried to tell myself it wasn’t that big of a deal, but if I’m being honest, I was devastated. There had been a lot of changes on every level in my high school in the second half of my time there, and “taking away” (really, just changing) the chapel that I loved just put the cherry on top.
The chapel was closed for a while, and in the mean time, we had adoration in the school gymnasium. That may sound like it was weird, but it was actually pretty cool. Our theology teacher’s dad built us a “burning bush”, so the monstrance was elevated and illuminated with numerous candles. Sometimes we would scatter more candles on the floor all around us. I brought a floor pillow that I deemed my adoration pillow to every session, and it worked better than I thought it would. I should have known that God’s presence would still burn just as brightly even if His surroundings changed.
Eventually the chapel opened again, and we had a re-dedication Mass to celebrate the changes. The altar had been moved backward in the space, and the choir section which had existed behind it had been moved to the side of the chapel next to the organ. The altar itself was different than it had been before, and the entire decorative installation behind was new. The cross itself was also different – the previous one had been suspended from the ceiling before the new one was mounted here. The pews were now cushioned (which was super nice, but also less fun. We used to really enjoy sliding along the waxed wood to get to our places). The kneelers were upgraded, and the aisles were slightly different. The carpet was new, and some statues had moved. And thus, we were given what you see below. I took this photo during one of the first nights of adoration in the new chapel.
I was hesitant at first, but over time, this new chapel has started to enter my heart. It is not the same home to me that the previous chapel was, and I still mourn that loss in some small way. Regardless, this space has taken on meaning for me, and I think that speaks to the spirit of God inhabiting a place. Environment is important, yes, but God’s presence is the core of what make a place meaningful, and this chapel’s change allowed me to accept that in a new way.