I went to bed late last night, after sitting for a while to plan this semester.
I’ve been doing a lot of planning and dreaming the last week. It happens every year at about this time. I’m mostly creating a loose structure that will guide my life for the next year or so.
Not surprisingly, one of the major things on my list for this year is to be intentional about making time to explore Catholicism. I haven’t quite figured out what the structure of that will be yet, though I know that my word for the year, Honor, will shape it. I want to commit at least an hour each week to reading, and I want to commit to showing up in this space to write and process at least once a week.
And so I went to bed last night thinking about the need to create space for that in my days. And again, unsurprisingly, my dreams were painfully colored by the realities of this new journey.
I dreamt about dialoguing with friends who quite simply didn’t believe that exploring Catholicism was something that Jesus would lead to. About friends from various house church communities who are opposed to structure in any form, and can’t imagine the incredible structure of liturgy and mass and a church calendar complete with seasons, obligations and holy days.
I dreamt about friends from other cultures – cultures where the Catholic faith has at times been mixed with all sorts of indigenous tradition that has created harm rather than good.
I felt the fear of all of these things.
And I dreamt about the one who for whom I first explored Catholicism in a misguided attempt to find love. The more the reality of this journey unfolds in front of me, the more I’m aware of the many memories from that season of my life. Memories that have left scars that still get irritated and painful when rubbed.
I woke thinking about my last spiritual direction session. Thinking about some of the memories I shared in that place, and about the discovery of the painful process of separating the moments where Christ met me in Maltese and Roman cathedrals from the moments where I stood as a witness for the things Christ was doing in the lives of others. As I ponder the need to separate those things out, I think of the process of untangling a fine gold necklace, twisted into knots. The careful, nitpicking need to separate the knots into pieces and ends.
So many of those memories are visceral, painful, ecstatic, and beyond understanding. That they are entwined with relationships that ended in broken hearts doesn’t help. And yet I find myself trying to journey forward, and I know that to go forward I need to be able to stand in those places, to remember and see what Jesus is saying, in spite of the pain. And I find myself wondering if anyone will stand with me there? Who I can ask, and how to even find words to share those moments. Wondering if there are those who would stand and offer their own discernment in those places, and help me hear and separate what is mine from what belonged to the category of witness.
And even as I write that, I recognize that there will be streams of consciousness that need to pour out in this space. That I need to write about St. Paul’s Shipwreck church in Malta, about the relic there. That I need to explore Ash Wednesday in Rome, and the visceral nature of chunks of ash in the part of my braided hair. That I need to revisit that first Palm Sunday mass here in Calgary and that moment of standing in the crowd. And so, I suppose, I will write here, and process as externally as I can. I’m thankful, at least, today, for the space in which to do that.