We have been living with my in-laws for over three weeks. It was supposed to be a much shorter visit, but it’s hard to leave these grandparents! Being a religious woman and a member of Self-Realization Fellowship, a church that encourages discussion and questions, I always enjoy the theological discussions I have with Walter’s namesake, Grandpa Walter, a devout Catholic. Theological discussion, a documentary, the news this past month full of the Catholic Church and a conversation with Walter about the need for community for the church to truly do its work–it all made me homesick for the feeling I have whenever I am on “SRF” property. For about twenty-four hours, I even wondered if I was feeling actual distance from the church I grew up with. I asked myself, am I feeling called to convert to Catholicism?
It wasn’t a comfortable question. Converting to a religion is a big deal, and my politics don’t exactly mesh with the Catholic Church’s views on birth control, choice and who knows what else. I could ask the question, however, because SRF would still embrace me. The “Church of All Religions” teaches children at its Youth Programs that “all paths reach the mountaintop.” There is a garden that celebrates each of the world’s major religions at the beautiful Lake Shrine in California, right near the entrance. Conversion would be a very big deal for me and my family, but it would not cause any rifts.
Then, today, I attended Easter Mass with my in-laws, baby and husband. The homily was delivered by a priest from India, the same man who performed mass at Christmas. The only two Catholic masses I have attended in my adult life were performed by this priest. This is a bit of a divine joke, in my opinion, because the founder of SRF came from India to the United States in order to offer a spiritual path that united East and West. It makes me smile. The priest is an intelligent, devout, eloquent, passionate speaker. When he spoke today about the Resurrection, he said that the Resurrection of Christ was a reward for the life Christ had lived. This resonated with me deeply, because I believe that union with God, the Realization that our true Selves are, in fact, one with God, and that we have to work for that. The work that we have to do is to cast aside the delusion that keeps us from that knowledge, the desire for worldly achievements and things that distract us from the desire to reunite with God.
And therein lies my answer to the conversion question: I do not believe that the Catholic Church is the one true church. I believe in reincarnation. I may not be a member of the religion of Self-Realization Fellowship yet, not having received the meditation technique Kriya Yoga, but I am still a proud member of the church. Paramahansa Yogananda is my guru. When I pray, I sometimes choose to begin with the same beginning I have heard so many times at Sunday talks and Youth Program meditations, “Heavenly Father, Mother, Friend, Beloved God; Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahashaya, Swami Sri Yukteshwar and our Beloved Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, Saints and Sages of All Religions, I bow to you all.” Krishna and Babaji, in particular, are too dear to my heart.
I do not want to convert to another religion. I simply long for community. When I visit my mother, in Phoenix, AZ, and see the various ways in which she can choose to be involved in the church there, I long for those same choices. Members of SRF are not holier or nicer than Catholics or anyone else. They simply share a longing that I, too, feel, to take this particular path to mountain top.
Today, I was thankful for the massive statue of Christ that hangs above the altar at the local Catholic church. Rather than Christ on the cross, it depicts Christ rising. I looked at that image and prayed another familiar prayer, deep in my heart, “May thy love shine forever on the sanctuary of my devotion.”