On the 23rd Anniversary of my “signing the book”

It was on a cloudy 12 December 1992 that I joined Rev. Nicholas Cardell, Jr. of May Memorial Unitarian Society of Syracuse in his office to “sign the book” of membership.  We were joined by his wife, who served as witness.  I chose the day, 12 December, because it was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  When I do anything significant in my life, I like to choose a date that has some significance, if I have the choice.  I did not have a choice in my Christening date, nor on the date of my First Holy Communion (and First Confession), nor of my Confirmation (you only get one, hence no “first”).  Those dates were chosen for me (by my parents in the first case, and by St. Peter’s Parish, Dorchester, MA, in the second case, and by St. Peter’s and the Archdiocese of Boston in the last case).  When I got married, I had some say, but not a decisive say — my fiancee had some say (a lot of say) as did the church in Erie (first wedding) and in Kansas City (second wedding) as well as when the reception hall was available.

When I signed the book, something I’ve done 3 times — first, on 12 December 1992, at May Memorial, next on the Sunday closest to All Souls Day 1994 at All Souls’ Church in Kansas City, and most recently on 1 April 2012 at Shawnee Mission UU Church, now of Lenexa, KS.  My choice of the final date might seem as if I didn’t take religion or UUism seriously.  That perception would be false.  I take foolishness seriously.  I think that humor allows us, without benefit of pharmaceutical aids, to get to truths that would ordinarily elude us in our rational day-to-day life.  And I think that “playing the fool” is a liberating experience, something people look for in religion, and in gentle mockery, the all-powerful ego can be tricked, ever so briefly, into letting the guard down, and, for a moment playing along.

In choosing the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was doing (or so I thought) three things.  One, I was connecting with my Catholic upbringing, which is never too far from my own religious path.  If I walk a Unitarian path, that path, for me, is illumined by Celtic spirituality and sensibility, with a Catholic flavor.  Two, for all my rationality, I am a sucker for miracles and revelation, especially those which point to a generous world of wonder.  In the story of Juan Diego, the poor Mexican native, who had a vision of what he imagined to be Mary on a hillside in Mexico.  The Catholic authorities were skeptical — after all, he was a poor native, someone who lacked the schooling of the Spanish clergy and civil authorities, to whom such visions should come.  When asked to provide proof, Juan Diego had no idea what to do.  After all, who was he to ask the celestial lady for proof?  But the lady complied — the proof was roses, roses in the wintertime.  Had I but known the hymn “Come, sing a song with me” at the time.  This story, in which the “least” are given a special power of vision, moves me a lot.  I am wont to tell people that “I live for revelation.”  And, in my life, I’ve had plenty of revelation, and witnessed plenty of miracles (nothing that contravenes the laws of physics). Three, this particular day serves as Valentine’s Day for Latinos (esp. those of Mexican descent), in which one gives a rose (red) to one’s beloved.  There is a line in Joni Mitchell’s song, “Clouds,” in which she hails the spirit that moves one “to say ‘I love you’ right out loud.” Of course, she later pooh poohs that spirit, but I’ve known that spirit, as has Mitchell, and I could think of no better day to say “I love you (or UU)” right out loud than 12 December as the day to “sign the book” for the first time.  You only get one “first time.”  And I wanted to do it right.

So to all who may be reading this post — Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!  Get yourself a rose (or two) to celebrate.  And think of the miraculous in your own life.  And as you do, I hope that finding wonder there, it helps make your day.

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