It comes everyday, at the moments when I would least expect it, when I can’t help but steal myself, just for a second, to bask in the light of my thoughts. And people question it; those who witness stare in wonder, perhaps contemplating my motives or worse, my religion.
From brow to breast, to left shoulder to right shoulder, I grasp the paint of the sky and carve the sign of the cross against my chest everyday. The movement is often swift and always silent. Not out in the open, as I am not one to display my beliefs to the world, but instead, in secrecy, as a precious pearl that I clutch close to my heart.
Every once and a while, I will slip on the misguided trust of this world, seemingly alone, but in reality, far from it. Just last week, I fell through the fragile ice, drowning in the friendship of a familiar face, and drew the lines that hold me so. It was in the car, a fort that I call my own, driving down the ice capped cement that now covers our world. In a place seeming so protected, so still, my thoughts drifted, and I found myself making the sign. She was watching me. And with a long pause of silence, just enough for me to collect myself and realize what I had done, she asked why I did it. My answer was simple, because I felt like it.
It is a subject that I often avoid, perhaps because it is usually followed by confusion or criticism. You see, I am a foreigner to church, one of those people who attends the ceremony only when I have to, a person that sits in the front pew with a feeling that all of St. Paul’s Catholic Cathedral is looking with hatred down upon me. I need the book of hymns for each song, and even then do my lips simply murmur at half of the words. It is a grand wish of mine that I would all of a sudden find Mass enjoyable, a celebration that I could look forward to each week. But I’m not that person. Instead, I pray when I need it, those moments when I am withheld in a steel barrier, separating me from the chaos of the world moving 70 miles an hour past.
It is a common dispute when my father questions why I do not attend church, and my response has become ritual. In this strange world, it is understandable that he could be apprehensive about my spirituality. Perhaps he, like many others, is simply blinded by the misconceived idea that church is the sole road to salvation. How could I, a person who genuflects a mere two times a year, be religious? To me, religion should not be a forced event that I dread, never a consequence or an act undergone simply for the condescending views of others. I should enjoy it, it should steal me from life itself. And thus, my cathedral has become a 2005 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. If I should be condemned for this sin, then at least I have my secret to barricade me, my escape.
It is entirely possible that my family, my friends, my community will never understand why I paint the sign of the cross across my chest, but perhaps this is the most wonderful part. Maybe, just maybe, they don’t have to.
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