I grew up in a strict Catholic family. We went to church every Sunday and I was deeply effected by the moral and spiritual ideologies it instilled in me.
Although I've spent the last two decades far removed from these experiences, it always surprises me how deep my roots run. There are things about it that I took in and that will always be a part of me. For example, from before I can remember, I was taught that I had a guardian angel with me. This never seemed strange or mystical to me. It just was, and I loved it. The idea of angels everywhere was so beautiful and comforting. I loved this idea and embraced it fully, and it's in my heart so deep that I still feel, with each step I take, my angel walks with me.
As I've gotten older, I've begun to look back on my Catholic upbringing with curiosity. It hasn't been until recently that I've felt secure enough in my own self-defined path to do this. Before, I always felt that I needed a clear before and after. I needed a hard line in the dirt. I was that and now I'm this.
But as I look back, I can see that what I considered a solid line is much more blurred. In order to feel a sense of wholeness, I have begun allowing my young, Catholic self to take up space within me.
It's not that I'm going backwards and having a born again experience. Rather, I am acknowledging where I came from, and that although there was a lot I didn't like about it, I wouldn't be me without it. I'm allowing myself to love all parts of me in a way I never did before. I'm allowing myself to know that my young self, who was inundated with dogma and doctrine, is not a threat to my new spiritual self. Rather, she is an essential part of it, as she was the first part of me to consider that I have a spirit and my thoughts ripple out to the Creator of the universe.
One of the things I look back on with sincere fondness is the moment during mass when all the parishioners would turn to each other and offer a blessing. As a child, sitting still and quiet through mass felt like an eternity. And so, when we got to the part where we could stand up, turn to each other, shake hands and say, "Peace be with you," I was all in. I loved this. I lived for it. Finally, I could move and speak and bless people and people would bless me, and it was all so exciting and fun and energized. The air would feel fresh and alive as we turned to the strangers around us, looked into their eyes and said, "Peace be with you" and then they'd say back, "And also with you."
It wasn't until recently, when I was listening to a Loving Kindness meditation, that I realized this was another thing that had had an indelible effect on me. As I listened to the meditation, I sent out blessings to people I loved, people I disliked, people who needed support, and to the whole world. It all felt so comforting, and although I'd never played this meditation before, oddly familiar. As I thought about it more, I connected it back to being a child in mass, turning and shaking hands and saying, "Peace be with you."
I realized that as a young child, I had been taught the importance of sharing loving kindness with those around me.
Although it felt like I'd never gotten anything out of mass, I had learned through all those "Peace be with you's" that the people around me were important. They may look like strangers, but with the shake of a hand and a warm look into each other's eyes, we were strangers no more. We were in this together.
There is so much about mass that I don't miss, but one thing I do miss is giving and receiving blessings. It always felt so magical, and honestly, maybe it was. It was such a sincere and beautiful moment of human connection that I've never experienced in the same way since.
I kind of wish this was a normal part of life, and we all walked around blessing each other, offering abundance and love and hope and joy to strangers. And so, as I continue to explore what it means to be me, the me I am now and the me I was, I leave you with a blessing.
May peace be with you. May abundance rain down upon you. May all your illnesses be cured. May fear be banished from your life. May you feel love and joy like you've never felt before. And may you feel supported and safe and held in the hands of whoever your idea of a Higher Power is.
Peace be with you. And also with you.