In 2010, I became Catholic. “Crossed the Tiber,” as they say, because the Tiber is in Rome. In brief: I was raised Free Methodist, attended eight years of Catholic school, had a crisis of faith born from relational apathy and theological pride, and made a decision to join the Catholic Church, because I had to decide. At the time I saw it too much as a philosophical solution for the problem of doubt; I have found, even better, a remedy for living. The medicine has not been painless, not least of all because I resisted it, but also because it implies change, and change hurts.
If this essay is a joke, I am the punchline.
“Imagine that you are . . . caught in an intolerable one-on-one conversation . . . would you prefer . . . (1) That the other person become more and more witty and charming . . . while you find yourself more and more at a loss; or (2) that . . . a 7.5 Richter earthquake takes place, and presently you find yourself and the other person alive and well, and talking under a mound of rubble.”
Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos
Why do I want to remember the time I left an old friend in the snow? Specifically, when I left my friend to wait two hours, alone in her car, in the midst of a city-stopping Portland snowfall?
Sometimes the things that happen to me overwhelm me with a great generosity or thankfulness. This was not that time. Sometimes my writing is too “pious” to be decent. If there is indecency here, it is likely the opposite variety.
I saw a wooden statue of Mary once at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City.* It was, for the most part, simply Mary recognizable as such. As is common with Marian statues, Our Lady held a Rosary. In pious imagination, at least, she prays the Rosary along with you, one prayer to Jesus for each Hail Mary. As is common, the statue was lovingly made, with the Blessed Mother depicted in great detail.
But something about the way her face was carved suggested that she was listening to you tell her a story, and she didn’t quite believe what you were saying.
I went to a park near my house one day to finish reading an essay called “Imagination and Community,” from Marilynne Robinson’s excellent When I Was a Child I Read Books.
To give an idea of the amount of trees in this park, it is a small forest. It was likely to be a bit cold in the shade, so I took a light jacket. I found a playground and tried to settle on a swing. This was a little uncomfortable, so I sat in the sawdust and leaned against the ladder of some monkey bars.
I took my usual route to work this morning, and one of my usual streets had a fair amount of construction going on. It was enough that two opposing lanes had to funnel through one lane, and workers had to hold those stop/slow signs we all know.
I found myself stopped at the front of my line, waiting for the signal to move.
One of the oncoming vehicles that had to get through was a recycling truck. This wasn’t exactly great news, but you can’t do much except roll with it.
And at some point in time–I couldn’t say when, exactly–the Foo Fighters’ “Learning to Fly” had begun playing on the radio.
Mercifully, I only saw the truck pick up two or three bins before the cars on the other side had cleared enough that I could move.
I continued my morning commute smiling and amused.