|Pools of Bethesda|
When I was in college, I spent most of the time in a fog of insecurity. My time at the small Catholic college I attended for a year was not entirely bereft of wonder. I look back, on one hand, with a sense of appreciation for the awe and reverence that the environment inspired.
Unfortunately, the beauty of the Church and the Presence therein was lost on me in a conscious way. I can't believe I did not spend more time seeking the catholicity, so to speak, of the campus. I know that it was a motivating factor in my choice to attend, but only in an unconscious way. I had no interest in attending a large, competitive college but intentionally sought a small school that wooed me with its quietude and beauty.
I wish I had gone to Mass and adoration. The closest I got to the Church was to study one on one with one of the brothers there. We studied Latin and Greek to attempt to get me caught up to the rest of the class when I switched majors to study the Great Books.
I also studied Latin with the most delightful professor in a classroom setting who wore Birkenstocks and recited T.S. Eliot poetry from memory, such as from "Ash Wednesday."
Beyond that, the enchantment of the times rests in certain memories such as the Hale-Bopp comet perched in the sky; the “Bold as Love” album by Jimi Hendrix; the young man I befriended who claimed to channel aliens and who looked like an alien; the delicious food in the Bay Area (especially Mediterranean) and the freedom of traveling on the BART and buses; poetry readings, hair wraps, writing from my well of need. (I don't know that the poetry will ever be the same now that the Lord has saved my soul, but life is much, much better that way.)
There I was, seeking beauty and wisdom, yet experiencing no peace. The selfish, self-indulgent lifestyle in which I engaged held very little meaning, even though I sought meaning, or made it up.
Pleasure was not my end pursuit, even though I sinned constantly in my body. Rather, I longed to be taken over by something larger than myself. I had no direction or morals that really mattered to me, and I loved studying in college but did not know what I wanted to do or be.
Writing a poem and being taken over by it was one of the most exultant moments of my life, and my sorrow and need made for some great poetry.
I stole a poster off the BART train that had some stanzas from a Robert Hass poem. In my mind, the poster with its corner sticking out of the case had been placed there just for me.
Also, I can remember vividly the hike in which I trampled through the woods near the school and stumbled upon a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Holy! Holy! Holy! I wanted to fall on my face, not out of worship but in awe of her beauty. I visited frequently, I did things like leave candles. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that she was beautiful.
People want to give themselves to something, to Someone, bigger than themselves. We are created to seek God and His beauty and truth. But sometimes, we truly don’t know how to do this. I know I didn’t. My whole life was oriented toward myself.
I sincerely believe that, if I had been invited inside the Church and shown how to kneel, prostrate myself, pray, worship, and understand, in my feeble and self-centered way, the mysteries of the Church, I would have found the nourishment my soul was seeking.
Instead, a priest brought me downstairs to a secret room and initiated me into Reiki. I entered the Church exactly once for a talent show, and I have no idea if Mass was happening. Of course it was, but when? Who knows.
I am home now. I am Catholic. I belong to Jesus. I love His Church more than anything. I do not hold bitterness for the shortcomings of the priests there at the school or the failings of the people around me to evangelize.
But never underestimate the desire and need that those around you have for the nourishment that only Christ and His Church can give. Sometimes I think, “There’s no way the people around me have not heard of Jesus.” Yet, just the other day, I realized my own brother has no idea about who He is. His wife does not know. They need Him.
Invite someone to Mass or the Divine Liturgy this week!