Monday, April 25, 2011
The Three Jewels
Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, had something to do with my becoming Catholic. In his book, Living Buddha, Living Christ (which I highly recommend to every human on the planet), he spoke of the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha (awakened or enlightened one) the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (community of practitioners). While talking about practicing mindful living he says, "The best way to practice is with a Shanga: the collective energy of mindfulness deepens the practice. The presence of the Sangha is a protection and an empowerment, and this presence sustains us during the rest of the week as well." Regardless of any religious orientation of one form or another, to be most helpful, a person needs to have all three: an enlightened master, the teachings of that/those masters, and then a community in which to practice the teachings of the enlightened master.
Drawn to both Buddhism and Catholicism for years, the fact of the matter remained, I had a built-in community for one, and not for the other. Not only did I have a built-in community, I already had one foot firmly planted in it for a dozen years, and so many of the men and women I've chosen to journey with in this lifetime are part of that community. They are the friends I want to grow old with. They were already my Sangha, my faith community, but I had not embraced what was right in front of me all the time.
As I progressed through the process and more and more people learned I'd (finally) decided to join, the welcoming, the celebrating and the love. was really overwhelming. Had any of these people (or priest) put the screws to us, we would have run in the other direction, but their patient, gentle, we-can-go-either-way-with-you approach worked for STM and me.
In the end (and in the beginning, as it is with endings and beginnings), it was what Mary was calling me to do. Someone pivotal introduced me to Mary several years ago, and She's been calling me towards her in this direction ever since. I don't believe she calls people to be Catholic, necessarily, but I totally believe she calls people toward the Light, and for me, She is present and alive in this church, and that totally works for me in a very big way.
Chose Mary for my confirmation name and as the priest (liberally) anointed me with chrism oil that was perfumed and out-of-this-world, he blessed me by that name. That was a moment that I will never forget. Kathleen was my sponsor (she was so my sponsor long before I named her my sponsor, but that pretty much goes without saying). After being anointed and welcomed into the faith, we turned and hugged. Our new Mary necklaces made for each of us by another Mary-loving holy person, touching gently, neck to neck. Kathleen, a woman that epitomizes a blessed mother, embracing me into her faith of 49 years, one that she never for one second tried to talk me into joining, but by her steadfast example, showed me the way.