Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22

November 22 always resounds with me, for more than just the obvious reason.

When I was 8, I had already developed a deep love of playing the piano. Because it meant so much to me, I chose St. Cecilia, the patroness of musicians, as my confirmation name saint. So, November 22, the feast day of St. Cecilia, became *my* feast day,  because it was the name I had chosen rather than the one my parents had chosen for me.

The second reason for November 22 being special is one I share with all Americans from that time. I was in 6th grade. I remember almost nothing about grade school, fortunately, as it was generally an unhappy experience. I cannot even tell you, for sure, who my 6th grade teacher/nun was. But the afternoon of November 22, 1962 is an image frozen into my mind. I sat next to a girl named Andrea Sicilia, in front of a cousin named Jimmy Dougherty, and in the third row, third seat. Two faceless sisters standing at the door. Mother Superior on the loud speaker. Shock and some hysterics- the main reason I remember Andrea Sicilia's name. 

The rest of the weekend passes in a similar haze- I remember it, but only in specific flashes. Mostly those of Mrs. Kennedy, a few of the family. I do have one clear memory. I am sitting in the back room at home, watching the TV coverage. I am sitting in my little rocker- it is way too small for me now, but I am so skinny I can still squeeze into it. I am home alone, as I had organ duty at 8 o'clock Mass, and the rest of the family has gone later because my brothers had to sit with their classes. Oswald is shot by the man in the grey hat. Chaos on the TV screen. No one knows what happened. They don't know who did it. I keep screaming at the TV "it was the man in the grey hat!!!!" No one is home for me to tell.

We, all of us old enough to remember this terrible weekend, have stories and memories like this. 

Much later in life, November 22 gained another meaning. In 1963 I was unfamiliar with C.S.Lewis' writings. I found the Narnia Chronicles in high school, but only discovered his theological writings much later. I was fortunate to find these. I have had an increasing problem with the Catholic Church over many years. It seems the older I got, the less the institutional Church lived by the theology I had been taught when I was young. I went looking for a way to stay Catholic in a Church that I began to resent more and more. C.S.Lewis provided me a way. He writes about God, and our relationship with God. He writes about them in terms of essential theology. He writes about the common experiences of grief, death, etc. and where our faith plays a part in these experiences. 

From him I gained the ability to identify myself as a Catholic even though I had lost much respect for the Church. I came to cope with the idea that I love the religion but just not the institution that represents it. That ability to separate myself from the manifestation while clinging to the essential has supported me for many years. November 22, 1963, is also the day that C.S.Lewis died.

So, November 22 is always a jumble of feelings and memories for me. I remember and relive the sadness of a day that changed the world I would grow up into, I am reminded that I chose wisely at Confirmation as St. Cecilia has always continued to allow me the joy of my music, and I am grateful for the writings of a man who was a large part of saving my faith. For me, it is a day of great significance.

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