Sometimes being here feels like playing jigsaw puzzles with demons, trying to piece things together like the stained-glass windows of cathedrals. You can find forgiveness in confession but the weight of your sins still rests on your shoulders even after you've been absolved. So instead, I come here, and let myself be judged through the experiences of others who won't bother judging me because they relate, and if they don't they understand and either way, all our demons look the same.
There used to be days when I'd find nothing to say so I'd keep my head down and stay silent. The first time I wandered through these doors, I stumbled back out, three hours later, with my head so full of words I couldn't speak for fear of bursting and so I said nothing. This sudden attack of inspiration was like the cold blast of truth to one who's been burned by lies all their life and has finally broken free.
And this has been my salvation. Words more beautiful than any sermon I've ever walked out on, spoken by a voice more compelling than either angels or devils, burned their way into my brain and I knew I'd be coming back if only to hear that gospel again.
They say one person can change your life, but they aren't talking about poetry or men with shaved heads and more tattoos than your mother would like, and they're not talking about the kind of love you give only to God in your Sunday service. I would worship the words your voice has spoken if I thought your wisdom could rub off on me, but I know it won't, and I'm perfectly happy to sit back and listen to you speak.
I've spent two years attending mass with this congregation of artists and writers, and you might as well be God's youngest son, full of the sort of experiences Jesus might have had if he wasn't so busy preaching to those who only wanted someone to follow, regardless of who he was. And this is my version of religion. This church of culture full of velvet curtains twisted in lit Christmas lights 365 days a year, and these Sunday nights are what keep me going for the rest of the week, just biding my time until I come back here again to worship.
You might as well be my pastor, because your words shape my life. I'm clinging to your verses like believers to their Bibles, and not just because those words are yours but because I know why you're saying them, and you might just be the first honest saint I've ever encountered. This is the first place I've ever felt at home and I have to say you're the reason I kept coming back long enough to figure that out.
You tell us you're an asshole, a jerk, a man with too many of what other would call faults but I would call virtues simply because they make you who you are. I owe you so much but you've never asked for a thing, partly because I doubt you realise what you've given me but mostly because what you gave, you gave for free. And that's what you've given me: freedom, and inspiration, and you've guided my footsteps to a place where I belong. And now I've thanked you for everything as well as I can, so I've just got one thing left to say:
If you haven't guessed it by now, well, Paulie, this one's for you.