Sister Charlotte at St. Irene’s often would ask us second-graders to think about questions of faith. One day she asked if we could understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
“There are three persons in one God,” she said. “This is a mystery. A mystery is something we cannot understand.”
I raised my hand. I knew this mystery. Of course, there could be three persons in One God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost! Why not? I could imagine it.
This was back in 1955 when one could find me kneeling on the brown tiled floor of the bedroom shared with my siblings in Warrenville, Ill. I would set my altar preparing to say Mass. Opening my First Communion missal, I memorized the Latin and made up a little song: “Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio.”
Then, growing into my teens, other mysteries began to occur to me.
Original sin? Go to confession or go to hell? How could it be a mortal sin not to go to Mass on Sunday? I began to fear I would never go to heaven. I began to fear death.
Jump forward to 1978 in San Francisco and the birth of son; then to Hollywood and Vine in L.A. four years later and a new daughter. I look upon these moments as part of a Great Mystery of another kind.
Growing our lives together, we moved in 1986 to Kansas City, where I met my Native American mentor, a spiritual father to whom I have been an apprentice for the last 20 years.
To me, he has given at least one key to the Great Mystery of Life. I’ve learned that every language has a different world view of life. So, as we can learn another’s language, we can learn how others see the world.
And he also told me there was no concept of “sin” among Native Americans, until the early missionaries brought it. Before, one did as one was taught to do and be. Everyone in the community shared values and norms. Everyone had good teachings or bad teachings, all relative to the effect one’s actions had on another.
Yet, here in the autumn of my years, am I that much closer in my quest of understanding the Great Mystery of life?
How do we come here, where do we go when we die? Will we still have a consciousness of self? Why are we here? Who is God? Is God aware of me? Will he take care of me and let me live in a conscious spirit when I die?
Our faith walk — my faith walk — will never end, and I will never stop contemplating the divine. It is my hope that I will have consciousness of the divine essence when I do die. But I do not know that. That is why I pray.
Kara Hawkins, one of The Star’s 13 Faith Walkers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.