I haven’t shared this story with many people. I was afraid they would think I was either crazy or making it up. But now I’m older and I don’t care what other people think. Much. So tonight I’ll share it with you.
I used to be a new ager. At first I was searching for a way to understand Christianity. I wanted to understand everything about the universe, really. I had questions and I was willing to go down any path to find the answers. Almost any path. There were lines I wouldn’t cross but I had no qualms about lines I crossed about which I would not want to tell my parents even now. I’m not proud of everything I did but the Lord found a way to bring good out of my stupidity. Watched over me, too. I’m still amazed that I’ve made it this far.
One day in the midst of my deepest involvement with the new age, I was in my tiny studio apartment in New England. What a grand place I thought that part of the country was. New age stores were hard to come by where I was born and raised in Birmingham. But the new age was all over New England, every small town had a new age bookstore. Then I saw it as wondrous but now I see it as a cancer that had spread or like kudzu that covers trees and strangles the life out of them.
One of my favorite things to do was to go on exploratory day trips, riding around the countryside or going to shop down in Boston. (This Birmingham gal still loves the way it sounds to say “down in Boston.”) The landscape was beatiful in the White Mountains but equally enticing to me were the many new age bookstores. New Hampshire, where I lived, had its share but Boston had the most to offer. My favorite way to spend a Sunday was to get up early and make the 45 minute drive and be drinking scalding hot Dunkin Donuts coffee as I drove along the Charles River by 9 a.m. Then I would scour the bookshops, eat lunch, load up the car, and make the drive back home.
On one such trip I’d found a copy of Bernie Siegel’s Love, Medicine and Miracles and its sequel, Peace, Love and Healing, that had a companion guided meditation tape. Yes, tape. Cassette. This was in the nineties, after all. I lit incense (of course) and began the meditation. (I shake my head now but then I was searching, maybe in stupid ways but I was searching.) The aim was to find my spirit guide. Oy. But I was eager to see what would happen, if anything.
When I got to the part where my spirit guide was supposed to appear, to my surprise (or horror, to be honest, shock, even) I saw a male figure in a white robe. Uh oh, I thought, nah, can’t be. I moved closer, in the meditation, and he opened his arms and gave me what is still the best hug I’ve ever had. I can feel his arms around me, can feel his broad shoulders, the warmth of his body. And his eyes, though I can’t remember what color they are, I can remember that no one has ever looked at me that way before. I’d have to say it was love. Pure Love. He looked something like the man in the image below but at that time I’d never heard of Carl Bloch. Had I seen the painting before? It’s possible but I don’t remember it. And I wasn’t aware of anyone else around, it was just the two of us.
Was it the Lord? I don’t know. I’ve sometimes wondered if it could have been someone else, maybe St. Peter, I dunno. But my first thought was that it was the Lord. Part of me was in disbelief and part of me was disappointed. I thought that my years of wandering away from the Methodism of my youth had taken me so far away from Christianity that I would never go near it again. I couldn’t even hear the platitudes of my old Sunday School teachers without rolling my eyes in disdain and boredom. I was sophisticated. I was a new ager. I’d been studying the Self-Realization lessons of Paramahansa Yogananda, and Vedanta, and Buddhism. I wanted nothing to do with Christian anything. Unless it was esoteric Christianity. Now that had promise.
Good grief. What can I say? I was such a maroon.
In 1994 I discovered the Catholic Church and in 1996 I was received into full communion with her. Everything I discovered and everything I went through when I was living as a pagan prepared me for becoming and being a Catholic. I didn’t have to go through all of that and I don’t for one moment think it was the Lord’s plan for me, but He allowed me to go through it and He has brought good out of it. My new age antennae work well. But I think I’ve barely begun to do what He put me here to do.
Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll join me next time as we continue to explore the Church, good Catholic books, and stupid things I’ve done in my life. ;) Until then, God bless you, whoever and wherever you are, and may His peace be always with you.
This has been a post in the Did I ever tell you? series.