From the Prologue of “And Toto Too: The Wizard of Oz as a Spiritual Adventure”
At school we had mandatory church services from time to time but there seemed to be a kind of code that required bored aloofness. Here some of the same people are quite obviously fully engaged in the retreat. When it’s my turn to offer my story, I decide to take the risk and tell the truth.
The truth is, now that my time at home is short, I’m feeling rotten about my relationship with my dad. I know that his hard work will be bankrolling my escape from his household. I don’t like what that says about me, and I tell these kind people so. It seems like I ought to try to talk with him from the heart at least once before leaving home. It seems like an unrepeatable moment in life that calls for some honesty. But how could I find the works and the nerve to talk to the man?
The retreat winds down on Sunday afternoon and ends with a Mass. I’d done that hundreds of times before, even daily when I was in elementary school. So, we take our places sitting on the floor in this informal but powerful gathering. Near the end it’s time for Communion. I’d received Communion since the first grade. I couldn’t know how different that was about to be with my newly opened heart.
I go forward and put the Communion wafer in my mouth. Our belief is that we’re receiving the fullness of God into ourselves in the Body of Christ. I’d had no problem believing that. I never had. This time, though, I was in for a surprise.
As I return to my place my whole body begins to pulse and throb. Every cell in my body is responding to Him. I start thinking of Bible stories of people having ecstatic religious experiences and here I am having one of my own! I’m a pretty strong introvert, so I’m not jumping around or rolling on the floor. But inside I’m having my own private Pentecost. I get back to my place, close my eyes and sit down on the floor, with people all around me… and I start to cry. Now I’m figuring everyone must be staring, only to find that no one is looking at me at all. I learn in that moment that when you think it’s all about you, it usually isn’t.
So, I go home, back to my bedroom. Down the hall is Dad, asleep. He works very erratic hours, day and night, and sleeps whenever he can. One of the cardinal rules of our household is, Don’t wake up Daddy! Nevertheless, I know I need to talk to him, and that if I don’t do it quickly I might lose my nerve. On the edge of my bed I say a prayer. As I do, my body quakes and the palms of my hands pulse and get hot as they did at the Mass on the retreat earlier. Whatever this new thing is, it isn’t confined to an emotional moment on a retreat. It has come home with me. The love and the power of God have followed me home.
-Nathan G. Castle, O.P.
For your reflection:
Have you ever been surprised at the spiritual depth of some of the “regular” people in your life?
How do you experience receiving God into your life? Do you attend a church service with sacraments or rituals? Do you have your own private rituals that involve inviting God in?
Have you ever had a mystical encounter of God’s presence and love? What was it like? Have you shared your story?
Are you struggling in any area of your life? Would you like to invite God to “follow you home” and help you confront the problem?
Pick up a book today to hear the rest of this story.
Please contact us if you would like Fr. Nathan to visit your church or community for a retreat or parish mission!