By Liz Adair
A few days ago, on a glorious, sunny California morning, as I walked through the rose garden of the mission in Santa Barbara, I listened to a friend (whom I shall call Mary) speak of her daughter’s first communion, which took place in that historic church. When I asked if she had been reared in the Catholic Church she said no and went on to tell me of her religious odyssey. Mary’s parents had been upright, moral, non-attending believers, but she had gone to neighborhood church with a friend and had been baptized. As she grew older, her pragmatic, analytical side often warred with her spiritual side, and she shared with me some of the fruits of that struggle.
Mary said that she has come to believe the Bible is flawed because, though it may be the word of God, it has come through the minds and hands of men, many of whom had their own agendas as they disseminated its teachings. However, she also believes that, though it is a flawed book, yet it is so pure in intent, so venerable, so holy because of its antiquity, so powerful because of the word of God that it does contain, so ‘right’ because it has been proven by ages of men, that we must listen and follow its teachings.
Mary said that, as the daughter of an engineer and as a student of science herself, she found herself wondering about the Christian message, which has as its centerpiece the resurrection and life after death, a fantastic and scientifically unproven claim. One day, in physics class, they were studying Einstein’s theory of relativity, and suddenly E=MC2 took on a new theological meaning for her. Here it was: mass (or physical matter) becomes light, or energy. It was in physics class that the afterlife became a reality to her.
I asked Mary if I could use that thought, tucking it away for a character to voice at some future time in a book yet unwritten. But as I look back upon that weekend, upon the wedding and the museum, upon the used-to-live-in houses we visited, and the wuuuuunderful tacos at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, it is that moment that stands out. I think I shall never again smell a rose but what I will remember Mary’s words and feel anew the glow as her sweet, believing spirit reached out and touched mine.