Long Way Around

“Let him decide when he is old enough”…That was the stance on religion from my family. A Catholic mother & Lutheran father and no one got along. Mom’s side was ripped that she married a Lutheran German instead of a nice Italian Catholic. Dad’s side really didn’t seem to care much one way or the other. I remember going to a Methodist church as a child in Maine. The pastor was a nice guy, but the service was dull and lifeless. Sunday school was OK, church suppers was the star of the whole thing. There was a lot to be said for small town living- everyone watched out for each other and worked together. Shoveling snow, picking chickens or harvesting. Everyone shared the work and the benefits. I read the bible here and there, went to Vacation Bible School, that was pretty much the extent of my religious training. Dad passed from cancer when I was 10. Mom and I stayed in Maine till I was 13. Her sister Philly had a mom-n-pop grocery store in Saxton’s River, VT. We lived over top the store. Philly would take me to Mass sometimes, but it was “you can’t do this, you can’t have that you have to be confirmed” and so on. At that time I had no clue what she was talking about? I had learned early the best thing to do was be quiet and do what you were told.
Due to my involvement in martial arts I studied Zen and Oriental Philosophy. I always had a penchant for mystical/occult subjects. On a trip back home to Maine was my first introduction to Wicca, through my friends mother. I came home with a whole new set of ideas, some books and no clue where this would lead me. Mom was not impressed but did nothing to discourage me. There was excitement in this new field, a bit of danger, it made me feel part of an elite group. Something I desperately needed at that point in life. I had a secret to keep, I was learning “forbidden” knowledge and I loved it all.
After college and out on my own I signed up for a home study course in Wicca. It included study of basic beliefs, rituals, the construction of items for use in the practice and so on. Always with a love of reading and good with my hands I breezed through the material. I took up the practice of tarot cards and runes for divination after I was told I had a real gift for that. After a few years of study I joined a group(coven) close by and began teaching classes. I had a sense of belonging, I was respected for the knowledge and ability I had. Things I desperately needed in life. What I failed to realize is that I had managed to completely fool myself. A dispute in doctrine caused my split from the group, I was on my own yet again. Work was busy and I was making good money, but I began to sink into a deep depression. I was lonely, bored with the routine of daily life. My work friends didn’t know much of my “other” life that I had hidden so well. Now I had my secret with no one to share it with. I sought out a spiritual consular and tarot reader…my usual course of action when I came to problems. She asked me what I wanted that would make me happy? I was at a total loss for an answer. I was advised to make a list.
I started with no restrictions…a new car every year, the perfect wife and so on. Over time I pared the list down to the necessary, things that would last. People come and go from life, possessions wear out, money comes and goes. I ended up with a single item on my list…a peaceful heart. When I told her this she said…” Now list all the people with whom you have had a grievance with and one by one say their name out loud and forgive them, ask for their forgiveness and wish them peace”. This was going to take a while here…from my parents, relatives, and the kid in third grade who swiped my Kit Carson lunchbox and called me fat . So I made my list going as far back as I could remember to the guy who cut me off on the way to work yesterday. On the following Saturday night I started, one by one. It was a tremendous relief for the most part till I came to the very last name…God. I started by giving Him a good piece of my mind ! Where were you when this happened? And that thing happened? All the bible reading and praying I did when I was young…did you here a word I said? I went to vacation bible school instead of fishing ! Did you even notice? You took my sister, my four brothers and then my dad? Is that how much you “love” me? When I finally vented myself out I had a good old fashioned cry and told Him I was sorry for all the things I had done wrong, the things I said. I found my old bible and started reading…I bounced around from book to book and by dawn I was an emotional train wreck, but I had peace, I was not angry anymore, I felt forgiveness.
A friend at work who I had many discussions with about faith had invited me to his church. The following Sunday I went. The first song was “Open the eyes of my heart”…I sang and cried, actually I cried off and on far about three weeks. I went every Sunday and they had a prayer service Wednesday morning. Working the night shift I went to that too. I even got baptized again. Then I decided to remove all traces of my former path from my life. I gave all the books away, rounded up all the artifacts, jewelry, music, everything. It was all burned or buried. I drove to a shrine in New Hampshire , Our Lady of Lasalette. I used to work at the inn across the street it was “holiest” place I could think of. Purchased a cross and walked up to the top of the hill where there was a large crucifix. I apologized some more and promised to do the best I could to follow Jesus. I stayed there for some time and came down a teary but peaceful mess. For all the good the church had done for me I felt like I was missing something? I went to a few other local churches. Then one Sunday I was driving around and saw people going into St. Joesph’s Roman Catholic church. I remembered my Aunt Philly taking me to Mass and so I went in. I remembered what you did when. The church had that “sacred” feeling I was looking for. Fr. Robert, a young Spanish priest was saying Mass that day. I was his voice, the look in his eyes. I him I saw the passion I had been looking for. When Mass was over I got into the line to shake his hand and say “thank you”- I looked straight into his eyes, there it was and that’s what I wanted to feel. I had finally found my home. I kept going to Mass, joined the RCIA program and on March 26, 2005 I made my first communion at Easter Vigil. If mom could see me know! Here I had bashed the church for years and rebelled for all I was worth. Now I had become a full-fledged Catholic, one of the happiest days of my life. I belonged, I had a home , and an extended family as well. Today I still belong to that same church, my dear friend Tom comes to bring me communion when he can. Even now when I look at the certificate from the church, remembering that very long road right back to where I stated from there are more tears. These are tears of joy, of being forgiven, and tears of gratitude that God waited until my overly thick skull came back around, having taken the very long way home.
May Our Lord Bless You and Keep you.
All My Love- Charles
Hermits of St. Giles
“Commitment is doing what you said you would do, after the feeling you said it in has passed. ”
— St. Camillus

About hermitsoftheholycross

The Hermits of the Holy Cross is a Contemplative Association for those who are permanently physically disabled and have become “home bound” to their local Church and are in need of continuous medical care. The Association of the Hermits of the Holy Cross is set-up in such a way that those who are ill and physically disabled can live out their monastic spirituality from their own home. We assist the Church and the world through our life of prayer and freely offering up our sufferings that stem from our disabilities. For the Hermits, our hermitage is within our heart and the Cross of Christ is life for us and for our world.
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