Adventures in Exploring a New Faith (by Mrs. G.)
I am not speaking for Bob in these posts, but I want to give him credit for having been most instrumental in my finding spiritual guides. He's also helped me understand things I otherwise wouldn't have even known whom to ask -- and in other ways that I could never fully express.
Quick background: I was raised in a secular Jewish home, but even as a young child I was a seeker and wanted to know God. I even went to a variety of different services with neighbors and with my grandparents, and was exposed early on to Reform Judaism and the Episcopalian church, as well as a 70's style of spiritual seeking with looser parameters, but based on Christianity.
Currently, I'm a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. I don't have any problem with that practice for myself, and I've been very faithful to it, for lack of a better term. I'm a true believer, you could say. But once Tristan arrived, I now have him to consider. Magic 8 ball kept saying, "answer hazy, ask again later." I knew The Mother would let me know what to do when the time came, and recently, she did.
Bob suggested a little while ago that a religious education might be worth considering for Tristan. The more I thought about it, the more I felt pulled to bring Tristan to a local Catholic Church, Our Lady of Malibu (OLM), to worship and to go to school. Then I guess the idea really took hold of my soul, and I myself felt drawn to converting to Catholicism.
I went to mass today for the first time at OLM. Tristan and I went with a friend who grew up Catholic and occasionally goes to OLM. Tristan immediately threw a tantrum on the floor of the church, so we were quickly facing Plan B: the Child Care room. Because of damage from the recent Malibu fires, they no longer had a large room with lots of toys. Instead, they had to make do in a very small room with a giant Xerox machine that had probably been somewhere else before the fires. There was a group of well-behaved girls doing crafts at a table when we walked in. The door was propped open and they didn't know where their baby gate was. Hmmmm. I stayed a few minutes to see if Tristan thought of the Xerox machine as a ladder, or if he would try to flirt with the girls instead. When another little boy showed up, I decided to go back to the mass with my friend.
OLM is very understated compared to what I expected at a Catholic Church. The room where they have mass is bright with an A-frame roof, but it's very simple. There is a window above the altar with a beautiful outdoor statue of Mary. The way it's configured, Mary is surrounded by bougaanvillea and looking down at us past the Christ on the Cross on the wall next to the window.
I let go of the thought of what Tristan might be getting into and let myself be drawn into the service. As soon as the priest read part of the mass from the prayer book my eyes started filling up with tears. When I was first exposed to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, they each suggested to read his work with your heart, not your head. That's not exactly how they said it, but the idea was not to intellectually try to understand and analyze each concept, but to notice how you respond in your heart and soul to what you're reading. I took this approach this morning. Otherwise, I know I would have thought about what is different about Catholic teaching than what I'm used to, or how much trouble it is to get Tristan there, or whether I'll relate to anyone else once I get to know them, or what my secular parents would say if they knew I am planning on converting to Catholicism, and on and on. Blah blah blah.
Later in the service when they did the communion, I again had a very strong emotional response. This time, I had tears running down my face. I'm sure that I had a lot of spiritual feelings bottled up since before Tristan was born. That was the last time I went to any spiritual services. I used to go regularly to the beautiful Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, and Bob and I would occasionally go to the Hollywood Vedanta Temple. But I don't feel that this explains my reaction completely. I am sure I was supposed to be there today and it confirmed to me that I'm on the right path.
Tristan was doing really well in the small child care room, and I am getting pretty good at not worrying about him when he's with other people. He's so outgoing, he doesn't get upset at being apart from me if there are interesting distractions, new toys, or pretty girls to keep his attention. He wanted to come out by the end of mass and I brought him into services toward the end. We sat right near the musicians in case Tristan would like that, and he did. He loved it. He danced and clapped and pointed out all the instruments, but mostly watched in awe. I don't think he's ever seen a live performance of any kind of music.
During one silent part of service when people were receiving communion, I told him that it was quiet now and that people were praying. It was totally quiet, actually, and I was whispering in Tristan's ear to keep him from squirming too much. I whispered, "Thank you, God" as an example of what it means to pray. He immediately repeated in a clear, high little toddler voice, "Thank you, God!" Everybody looked around at us. I am sure when I was younger, I would have been embarrassed. But I felt much more comfortable at my advanced age, and Tristan was so totally innocent of trying to get attention or anything that would have annoyed me as an onlooker, so I just took it for how sweet it actually was.
I won't usually have this much to say at once. But I thought a little bit of explanation was warranted. I especially want to know about your experiences as an adult exploring your spirituality, and anything else you might want to share.
Leslie (Mrs. G)