Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Standing in your garage doesn't make you a car.

There is a saying my granny always used to tell my siblings and I, but until reading Eat Pray Love and really considering my religious faith I never truly understood it: “Remember, just going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.”

I used to consider myself faithful. I prayed before I went to sleep, went to church every Sunday, had a strong relationship with God, and was unwavering in my beliefs. However, coming to college has changed all this—ironic I know considering our Jesuit campus with the cathedral smack in the heart of it. I wouldn’t say I am faithless, but over the last three years I have found that when I once looked to God and found answers, I now find questions: unending questions that never seem to subside but only multiply as I begin to question the questions.

I think it is for this reason that I have managed to envy one of the fifth graders in Mrs. M’s class at St. Mary’s. Her name is Monica, and she is by far the most boisterous and self righteous ten year old I know; which is evidently how she acquired the nick-name Princess Moni. She stands around four feet high, with chubby cheeks, brown skin, honey eyes, and a smile that could knock anyone to their knees. Her laugh is priceless and the energy she emits into the room is flawless, but what catches me off guard every week is none of the characteristics previously stated. I am jealous of Monica because of her ability to begin each morning singing and saying a personal prayer just after announcements. It is the same prayer each week, with maybe one or two names added or removed depending on their need of God’s help and blessing. She says, “I would like to thank God for my mom and my dad, my baby brother and sister, for Mrs. M, Mrs. Alyssa and St. Mary’s. And I would also like to ask God to help all the people homeless on the streets and anybody in need of food and love. Help us take care of each other. Amen.”

After contemplating my jealousy, I realized I am not envious of her ability to sing (although I wish I could hit notes as high as she can), or her ability to pray, because I could formulate a pretty decent prayer. I was jealous however, of her belief in her prayer. Her whole heart was in the words that she spoke—her whole being, which is more than I can say for the majority of conversations I hold through out the day. I couldn’t help but think of Monica while reading the questions and theories Gilbert posed through out her novel. Three in particular stood out to me. The first was the impossible question of “how should we find peace within ourselves?” (251). It was incredibly frustrating watching a fifth grader have more peace and confidence within herself than I did at twenty years old. Like Gilbert, the many years, heartaches, and let downs that I have faced in the last ten years have left me to question not only my faith while simultaneously and earnestly needing it, but also to question myself. But Princess Monica didn’t question herself, and I wondered how? I immediately thought back to the seemingly class favorite quote: “Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark.” (175) In this sense, faith is not necessarily knowing the answers, but trusting enough to walk anyway.

Yet this only led me to question why Monica was able to have such faith while Gilbert and I had only transcended into darkness as years went on. That is when I stumbled upon the wise words of Felipe: “It’s still two human beings trying to get along, so it’s going to be complicated. And love is always complicated. But humans must try to love each other, darling. We must get our hearts broken sometimes. This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something” (277). After reading this quote, I found the answer I was looking for: I realized my faith really hadn’t been lost in college, it had just been transformed. In my new homeland at Loyola I found that I have enhanced my faith in people, and I strongly believe that in nurturing this faith, I will in turn find God again. I believe this is the motif within all of the novels we have read this semester: homeland in fact is an eternal peace with oneself, the ability to adapt, and the relationships we build with people. Gilbert takes this to the next level believing that in finding purity within each of these we will in turn find spirituality within our bodily homeland, and maintain the delicate balances of life. But like Monica says each morning, it can only begin by taking care of each other.

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