Last week Senator Patty Murray’s office invited my mom to attend the public’s viewing of the Pope’s address to Congress on the west lawn of the Senate. The last minute cross-country airfare was close to $1,000, so she didn’t attend, but was tickled at the invitation. It was prompted by her uncharacteristically bold move of writing her senator to ask to be her guest at the Papal Address. My mother is a devout catholic and Director of Faith Formation at her church, the highest lay position in her parish.
For the last couple of days Pope Francis on the news has rapt my attention. His open air mass in Holguin, Cuba was thrilling, as that is my husband’s hometown. We have family still living there. I have never met them, but when I had my first child, they sent a knitted powder puff I keep tucked away in a treasure box. Washington DC is practically my hometown, as I was born in its suburb, Arlington, VA. A lot of family still lives there as well. Though I sit on my sofa in Miami, I feel geographically connected.
And, my heart sings.
The spiritual connection literally vibrates through my body. In 1997, I attended World Youth Day in Paris and saw Pope John Paul II several times. He drove right by me in his Popemobile, made a couple of speeches, and said mass in a Paris racetrack one blistering August morning. The energy from such a good and holy person radiates at such a high frequency, you can feel it. The air around the Pope feels different, ions charged and zinging It pulses through the skin and into the veins. It is a physical sensation of pure love, which brings forth untold joy from hidden depths of the heart, which in turn blossoms into humility, compassion, and a deep connection to all. When I see the pilgrims on TV, their faces are struck with that same energy I remember so well.
It is the same energy I connect with on my mediation cushion, or when I chant holy names in Sanskrit at a kirtan.
The logistics of religion puzzle me.
What do I believe? What is true? Last night my two little boys were enthralled by the images of the Popemobile driving through the streets. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Lego version of it is built this afternoon. They adore the way Pope Francis gives children the best of His love. Indeed they can sense the sacred, and have a vague memory of waiting for white smoke a few years ago.
An hour after we watched the Pope, I showed them pictures of Hindu deities, starting with Brahman, because Max is studying world religions in second grade social studies. I informed him that when we sing our kirtan songs or say the name of yoga poses, he speaks the language, Sanskrit, that is in his notes. After running through about six Hindu gods, they asked to see a picture of Jesus and so we did. Jack made a concerted effort to get to the bottom of the matter. Which one is God? Who got it right? Which one is real?
The logistics of religion puzzle him too.
My answer to him is this: God exists and created us and everything else. God always wants us to be loving and kind to one another. Different cultures express this truth with different words and pictures. That’s just people doing the best they can to point each other to the Divine. Details don’t matter, but can be fascinating and inspiring. If it is love, it is God.
I had just tiptoed out of the Catholic church for good, when Pope Francis burst through what had seemed like insurmountable bureaucracy and systemic corruption with the humility of one of my favorite saints, Francis, and it felt like the hand of God reached His hand in peace to me personally. My current practice of Bhakti Yoga uplifts my spirit on a daily basis and feels like coming home to my true essence. My children attend an Episcopalian school run by a grandmotherly priest who radiates gentleness. It would be lovely to organize all this faith and devotion neatly, but I can’t. I understand God with a chaotic heart. I suspect there is an underlying nature of such symmetry and beauty it would take my breath away, if only I could see it.
Can the Holy See see it?
I believe in holiness. Saints walk among sinners, and sometimes are sinners themselves. When we find someone, (a pope, a guru, a friend), who radiates such light, let us bask in it and let our own flames grow brighter. I believe in energy, that when logistics fail, we can operate on a higher level in a field of all possibilities. I believe we all have a infinite ability to love, to be loved, to be love.
That is what I can see and it is holy.