On a small Micronesian island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the haunting music of the Samoan guitar drew him into the shack-like church constructed there. Although spoken in another language, the chanting of the Catholic ritual was familiar to him. Entering and taking his place alongside the bare-chested, sarong-clad men and women, he sat cross-legged on the asphalt floor between the pew-drawn lines, and participated in the service. He had been away for a very long time, and in the familiarity he found he was deeply moved.

One of the things unique to the Catholic faith expression is the fact that you can enter a church almost anywhere in the world and find the familiar. Whether held in a lavish cathedral, or a crudely constructed shack on a remote island, the rudiments of the Mass remain the same everywhere.  And while I have often questioned and/or disagreed with the man-made rules and leadership behavior within the church, it is the familiarity of these rituals that continues drawing me there to express my faith.

St. Francis Xavier has said, “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man/woman.” As a Catholic from birth I find this to be true. The reciting of familiar prayers, kneeling reverently, standing respectfully during the Gospel, singing hymns, and receiving Communion, are all actions I have performed from childhood. And although I have always been open to, and have studied and participated in other faith expressions, it is these rituals that continually draw me home, out of my ordinary life and into the sacred.

On a recent visit to Sedona, AZ I took a Pink Jeep Tour to the ancient ruins of an Indian village built into the side of a mountain. On the desert road leading to the site I spotted a red-tailed hawk circling above us. As it circled lower and lower it came so close I could see all its beautiful markings. Remarking that the Indians believe that all the earth, people, plants and animals are spirit, our guide turned to me and said that I must be a hawk spirit. One in his words “who is of the heavens with powerful vision and intuition.”

It is interesting that I should have had such an experience as I have always felt a strong connection to, and interest in the spiritual. Tradition and ritual have always been a very important part of my life. Whether celebrating Mass in an elaborately adorned church or in a humble rundown shack, participation in the ritual of the Catholic mass is where I feel most at home.  And it is in this familiar faith expression that I, too, find myself most deeply moved.

et cetera
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