Within the stoney and ancient walls of the Katedrala Cathedral, among the city of Zagreb,Croatia, rays of light and colorful reflections cascade, illuminating the etchings and designs of the stained glass windows, from high above. The ceiling anointed and blessed by paintbrushes centuries past, offer impressions of a deep blue sky with stars beaming light spiralling towards the heavens. Inspired by the presence of the many hands and hearts that created this sanctuary of peace, I reflect upon the choices of my life.
I stand before the altar, with an open heart, following the thread back to the roots of the very moment in time that I affirmed my split with the Catholic Church.
By the age of twelve I was baptized, received my first holy communion, and was confirmed catholic from inside the walls of the St. Charles Borromeo Church, set among the City of Angels. I was even granted the honor of being graduate of the year at my eighth grade graduation. I attended Catholic School from first grade all the way through high school, sang in the church choir, wore a blue plaid uniform, and played in the game of dodging referrals for either an untucked shirt, skirt too short or wearing a sweatshirt that was anything other than the hue of navy blue. I offered my “sins” inside the confessional box to well liked priests. These being the very priests who would invoke “the spirits” engaging freely in drinks of scotch and gin among our community at the parish functions, joining and supporting us at our sporting events and occasionally “breaking bread” at our dinner tables. Stepping out from among the confessional box, the community would recite “hail mary’s” and “our fathers” with the promise of being appointed to either heaven over hell, approved by the hands of God.
Following the scent of the Frankincense and Myrrh among the sanctuary of the Cathedral, I trace my steps to the very moment I liberated my spiritual path and graciously broke off my engagement with the Catholic Church.
It’s early morning, with the scent of spring in the air. My family is getting ready to leave the house for mass at St. Charles Church, in North Hollywood, CA. My grandparents are visiting from the desert and I am home visiting for the weekend from my first year in college. On the way out the door, my maternal grandfather, who we lovingly called “Papa”, asks me in a stern, yet loving voice. “Your not going to church like that are you?” “Like what?” I ask. Mind you, I am not used to be questioned anymore, as I leave the house. “You can’t go to church with wet hair. It’s disrespectful,” he says with strong authority. “Oh, Papa, I let my hair dry naturally these days.” I say. Feeling his disapproval, I say, “God doesn’t mind if I go to church with wet hair or not. Jesus wore sandals, just like me, as I point to my Birkenstocks, I say with a smile.” “My mom shakes her head, knowing very well that my grandfather would not win this one and says, “Papa, give up. Alison’s going to do what she’s going to do. She always has.”
In that moment, a moment culminating for years, awakened something new inside me. I had a choice and yes, even a voice. I knew Papa would still love me, even though not happy with my choice, realizing that it really is ok that people have their own opinions and reasons for feeling as they do. I thank Papa for that day and for my mother affirming my independence and free spirit nature. This moment sparked something so deep inside that it liberated my very beingness. I finally felt safe enough to speak my peace and honor my true path without being punished in some unfortunate way. Being good, or spiritual was not a matter of appearance or pleasing others, my spiritual nature was one to be celebrated in the ways that felt good to me. Finally!
From that day forward, I stepped back from the altar, resting back from among the pews, as my family and community received the sacrament of Christ, during holy communion. I still do to this day. I still enter churches for weddings, funerals and simply to feel the majestic qualities of the spaces. I find churches to be truly peaceful and beautiful. My love for Jesus has only grown stronger. I have become simply what I am as that nameless presence, many refer to as God, Creator, Allah, Source, Universal Consciousness, etc. It’s all one in the same to me. It’s simply what I see and feel within everyone and everything. My ceremonious nature of lighting candles and burning incense in the later hours, once inspired by my childhood within the sanctuary of St. Charles Church, only strengthened my invocation and calling.
Walking out the doors of the Cathedral, I feel at peace. I offer gratitude and my love to this beautiful church as Tyler leads me gently and kindly over to the postcards at the gift kiosk as we make an offering together to the cathedral.
In the night, I continued to trace the thread all the way back in time many, many, many moons ago, when Jesus took to the cross and new religions were born.
Peace be with you all….