I loved church when I was little. We used to go every Sunday morning. My church was a block away from my house and every week, no matter the weather, my family and I would all dress up in our nicest clothes and walk up the hill to greet the Priest.
Upon entering, every member of the congregation would dip their fingers in a little golden cup of holy water and anoint themselves with the sign of the cross before finding a place to sit.
Aside from the guaranteed sip of wine and the texture of the communion bread on my tongue, my favorite part of church was the holy water. It had a particular smell – not quite rancid, but not fresh either. The texture was different from any other water I’d experienced. It felt somehow thicker, denser, and more oily than other water. As a child, I felt my church’s water was nothing short of a miracle from God. I thought Jesus must have changed it when no one was looking, just like he did when he turned water into wine.
30 years later, in the middle of a full on pschyo-spiritual crisis, I wanted nothing more than to feel and smell the water I loved so much as a child.
To be honest, it was quite intimidating to admit I wanted to go back to church. I stopped going when I was 13. As a small child, church felt like a beautiful, comfortable, loving place to be. When I started to reach puberty and womanhood, it changed. Religion suddenly became terrifying. I don’t remember the exact moment or chain of events that turned my loving Jesus experience into a nightmarish fear of being possessed by the Devil. However, between the ages of 11 and 13, the emotional trauma I experienced over not wanting to go to Hell left scars for three decades.
I’ve been working my way back into a loving relationship with Spirit ever since. After six months of insomnia and believing the only way I would ever be fully safe from evil was if I lived in a convent, I stopped going to church altogether. I spent the remainder of my teenage years hiding from my fear of God while still fearing God.
I started looking at other forms of Spirituality in my early 20’s, eventually finding my way into Druidry, Paganism, and Shamanism. I formed a complex Spiritual identity as a Druidic Shaman with Witchy tendencies. In other words, I became everything the Catholic church said would send me to Hell.
Contrary to my upbringing, identifying with Pagans, Druids, and Witches didn’t leave me feeling like a demon nor was I living amongst fire and brimstone. In fact, none of what I’d experienced in any of my Spiritual endeavors felt sacrilegious. I’d gone half way around the world and back, experiencing many forms of prayer, ritual, and meditation, and every form of communion I had with divinity was, in is purest form, divine.
Nonetheless, how does a Witchy-Druidic-Shamanistic-Non-Practicing-Catholic in the middle of a psychotic spiritual breakdown go back to church and ask for holy water? It seemed like both a dilemma and a homecoming.
Practically speaking, she actually has to find an open church. Not an easy task in today’s world. When I was a kid, church was open all the time. The doors were never locked. Not true anymore. I spent two days canvasing all the Catholic churches within reasonable driving distance. Every one of them was locked. My Druidic mind took over and thought, “Hmm – a sign, perhaps?” Yet, the craving in the tips of my Catholic fingers would not ease. I sought out church after church until finally I met a woman with a key.
She was a volunteer in a Catholic bookstore across the parking lot from the fifth church I’d tried that day. She opened the door, gave me holy water, and asked me if I wanted to stay.
“Alone?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said. “The Priest will be here in an hour for confession. I’ll lock the door behind me.”
That’s how I found myself alone, locked in a church, questioning everything about myself and my Multiple Spirituality Disorder.
The next hour felt like lifetimes…