The Broken Seal

Victoria - Santa Cruz, California
Entered on June 22, 2008

I was raised in the Catholic stucco palace named Saint Edwards, that was built during the fifties to accommodate our San Francisco neighborhood and has since been torn down. I was the kid who asked the nuns a lot of questions in Catechism. I asked why the biblical version of the Our Father was different from the one we recited in church, and my robed teacher told me she had no idea what I was talking about. I didn’t have much use for catechism after that.

There were Sundays when our parents sent us to church alone with money for the collection plate, and we sneaked into the deserted upper balcony, where we hid behind the pews and devoured the candy we had bought with the collection money. We must have felt comfortable in church because we could have gone anywhere, yet we spent that hour within its confines.

I wonder about those Sundays our parents sent us alone. I suppose they hoped we would unload our heinous crimes in the confessional. I was a confessional kind of a kid, too. Not one to leave out a sin, I inevitably received a litany of Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s from the priest.

I was sustained through Catechism by my crush on a crew-cut boy named Porfirio who told us to call him Junior, but by the fifth grade I had a new crush. Our confirmation class was nothing like catechism with the nuns. In the spirit of the sixties, we met at someone’s house and sat in a circle of folding chairs with the bearded young man who was our teacher. Once my crush Jim, clowning around, tipped back in his chair and crashed to the floor. It was a moment that cemented our friendship forever.

Despite my lack of faith by the time Blue and I met, he and I were married by the same priest who baptized me. The sacraments are important to a Catholic, no less to an unbelieving one. Before we were married Blue and I chose a series of Saturday private meetings with the priest over a weekend retreat with other betrothed couples, what we hoped what the less torturous of two choices but turned out not be. Father McGuire droned on, lighting one cigarette after another. He was known for his love of scotch, and all around his office were bottles of his beloved drink (one in the shape of a monk with the seal broken) given to him by his parishioners. It was hard to take his talks seriously in confines resembling a smoky bar.

Despite Blue’s and my atheist pledges to each other, the year after we married I ended up in church on Sunday mornings. The church was not Catholic, and the humbling postures I missed I found in yoga. The Bible talks about the body as temple, but Christianity does little to address the body. In hatha yoga the breath all movement. Perhaps it was only over time that the Christian faith neglected the body, because the Hebrew word for Spirit translates as Breath.

My spiritual journey, however, does little to explain the mystery. Being Christian means not having arrived at the answer but having arrived at the question.