I’ve had a few nice comments on my post about the conch shell, which is really Part One of a two-part story. Part Two of the story goes like this …
My cousin Joanne is as much a sister to me as a cousin. She’s a year younger than I am, and we spent hundreds of Sunday afternoons together as kids visiting the set of grandparents we shared … my mother’s and her father’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Miller. We were all Catholic, the whole family, on all sides, believing in and practicing the faith to various degrees.
Grandma Miller’s mother Mame Cassidy (born Mame Griffin) had been raised in a convent, and Grandma Miller herself went to mass several times as week. She was devout and had a few old-timey Catholic stories, including one about a girl in Pennsylvania who made a set of Rosary beads from snowballs which remained unmelted throughout the summer.
As it turns out, Joanne too is a devout Catholic. She is also a tough and liberal thinker, as sharp as a whip, nobody’s fool when it comes to swallowing anything hook, line and sinker. Her faith may be stronger because of my attempts to poke holes in it. My faith is certainly stronger because of questions she has posed to me over time.
This is what takes me to Our Lady of Lourdes.
If you read that conch shell post, you know that it inspired me to garden which – in some way – inspired me to write In Mr. Handsome’s Garden. I visited Joanne and her family while I was writing the first draft of the book. She was happy and excited for me. She loved the stories that were in development and, one evening, I told her about the conch shell – specifically that I believed it to be a spirit urging me to continue on.
She believed me as well. Or I should say rather that she believed in my faith. She let me tell the whole story, and then, when I’d wound down, she asked me one of the most insightful questions I’ve ever been asked. It was, in a nutshell, “Keith, ye skeptic of Biblical miracles, how is it possible to believe in a conch shell without also believing in Our Lady of Lourdes?” And the answer is clearly that it’s not.
So I now find myself believing in Our Lady of Lourdes, La Virgen de Guadeloupe and Mother Mary in all her forms, from the mother of Jesus to Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion and any other manifestation of compassion that may exist.
That is the nature of spirituality or inspiration: it can have many forms, utterances or manifestations … but all of them come from faith in A Something We Cannot Understand but are called upon to believe in anyway.