"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis

Monday, January 28, 2013

When a building prays

2,000 people here, the announcer said, in -22 windchill, on concrete sidewalks (slipping, ice and snow), with signs: “PROTECT LIFE.”

In the Carondelet Center Library, I’m still cold; I nearly left my coat and scarf on during my meeting with my spiritual director, but I thought that would be strange, awkward. So my Columbia coat swung on its rack for an hour like a girl on a swing set and purple chenille scarf sat and rode along.

Sunlight slides down the bronze horses on the capitol’s roof, steps off the bugler’s bronze horn. Taps plays, and I think, this must be the way music cries. A sign: “50,000,000 CHILDREN MISSING.”

At the shelf, "Contemplative Spirituality," I rub my fingertips together as they tingle numbly where I frostbit them years ago. Earlier, on the bus ride back from the capitol, they were shot with pain, but I was glad for it: in the cold, pain means you’re all right.

White-gloved fingers tap endlessly on my hometown sign’s handle, flicking blood back into them. They have stopped hurting, so I am worried. My sign shakes: “WHITE BEAR LAKE.”

The library echoes quiet. There is a dark sort of silence that makes it hard for me to think or breathe or pray, the sort of silence that makes my thoughts not my own, and I become afraid—I know I am not enough—I know I am a failure—and I know those lies are true. But here, the silence is one born of years of contemplation in the presence of God; it is the silence of a building praying.

I twist between a mother whose daughter wears a donkey-eared hat and watch the little girl’s face, red and chapped. What have I done here? Has anything happened? Has anything changed? The unborn die and those born still live as dead, and the more I love, the more I feel pain.

Henri Nouwen is an old friend, and I slip his book Intimacy off the shelf. Page 36. And I read one last sign: “Perhaps the best definition of revelation is uncovering the truth that it is safe to love.”