|The Sun and Moon by The Artistic Fox|
“The word “God” has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse”
So says Ekhart Tolle in his book “The Power of Now” which I have been reading on and off for several weeks now. It’s been food for thought, reflection and contemplation as I have been experiencing a bit of a rebirth in my spiritual life.
Who or what is God/Goddess? How does this divine force relate to my life and to those around me? Are the Atheists correct in their assumption and belief that there is no greater power?
I have always felt the presence of a divine force, I have not put any name to this other than God or Goddess and those names come from my experience of both the Christian faith and from Paganism. I am equally well aware that other will think all this is supersitious claptrap and each to their own.
As a child I was baptised into the Church of England and I attended a C of E School mostly.
I attended Brownies and then Guides both of which had an obligatory presence at the Family Service once a month, I attended a Sunday School and the Monday club which followed the next day. I went away for fun filled weekends with Min and Jack Bentley who despite being in their 70s were game enough to devise and join in all manner of active sports such as Rounders, Football, Cricket and a game which involved flour, water lots of screaming and running I seem to recall. They were great and a real positive influence on some very difficult teenagers with their interest and involvement.
Fast forward to nurse training and then the spiritual stuff mostly went by the wayside as I spent time working shifts and weekends became filled. At times I involved myself in Christian based stuff but to be honest it was no longer an important part of my life.
Life went on and although I still felt the sense of an “other” higher power, a divine spirit, I could not put a name to this other than to know that for me it was still there. I am aware others do not feel this connection and I do not seek to impose this upon others, however, it was and is very much there for me.
During the past 14 years I more and more identified myself as Pagan in my beliefs – a higher power was still there, the divine feminine and no crusty old (male) Priest between me and this higher power. I could talk to this higher power, I could spend time in quiet contemplation and feel a connection to the divine and the life force all around me. What I did not have though was a community with which to meet and identify on a regular basis and it’s only just recently that I have come to realise the relevance and importance of this for me. I am aware that there are many Pagan groups which meet regularly all over the country but there was nothing that I could identify with locally. This has always felt irrelevant and I thought and felt I did not need this community of others.
The catalyst for change has undoubtedly been the death of my Auntie M, a Catholic who celebrated her faith in her own way throughout life. Bad experiences of Catholic run schools as a child left her with a bad feeling about the whole Catholic Church so although she remained Catholic until the day she died she would not set foot in a church. I have other relatives who will not enter a Catholic church for similar reasons. Likewise my prior experience of the Catholic Church has been the Priest who conducted my grandmother’s funeral who was elderly, set in his ways and had little in the way of people skills although I do not doubt he was probably a kind man.
So the Priest who arrived to discuss my Aunt’s funeral was a breath of fresh air, I did not meet him at this stage but he apparently turned up in jeans. T-shirt and trainers. He was very human, knew all about the grief of losing a loved relative to cancer as his own Mum had died when she was in her early sixties from the disease. He was great with my Uncle and very open to fitting in the requests of family to the service which he performed with a real compassion for the relatives of my aunt.
I met him again after my other aunt was sadly diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, he talked again of his Mum and the understanding that for relatives as well as the patient cancer was a nightmare which nobody wanted to live through but which inevitably some of us will do. He was supportive and understanding - even better he is quite up for a good laugh so thank you FrB.
This has all coincided with J wanting to attend church – his friend M goes and there are cakes and biscuits on sale after the Mass – no guessing what J’s motivations are! In addition his friend is attending Holy Communion classes and J wants to as well. Just one problem – J has never actually been baptised so has to do this first. The priest has suggested commencing the Communion classes in September with a Baptism being performed around Christmas time near his birthday. It all feels very strange..........
So – here I am after 20 odd years of not going to church but having my own beliefs about spiritual life, now actually attending a weekly Mass in the local Catholic Church. The parallels with Paganism have not escaped me – loads of symbolism, lots of use of various elements, baptismal water (self explanatory), Holy Spirit (Air and Spirit), Candles and flames (Fire), Ashes at various times (Earth). And I am finding a peace in attending this weekly service, making time for reflection and prayer – just as I always did but with a community of others and that feels important and right.