Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Latest Installment in my Recurring Church Dream

For the last many years -- don't even know how long, really -- I have had a recurring dream. It isn't actually one where I have the exact same dream; rather it is the same theme played out in different ways. I've come to almost look forward to these dreams in a way, because they sort of help me think about where my life has gone of late. I'd say I have one of these dreams once or maybe twice a year.

The theme is that there is some connection to my hometown, or occasionally the town where my grandparents lived, and that I am trying to get to a Catholic church. In the beginning of having these dreams, I was in the church where I grew up, going to a Sunday service, and ignoring the fact that I was now Catholic. I would wake up and be disappointed with myself for missing Mass. Then it became an anxiety dream where I would realize I was in the Lutheran church and I'd be running, trying to find a Catholic church, then trying to find a Mass, or trying to get there on time. Later, it was stumbling upon Catholic churches that I hadn't known existed, trying to get inside or waiting for Mass to start. More recently these dreams have been about discoveries, like one where I returned to my grandparents' home to find that it had once been a chapel and still had a hidden and occupied tabernacle there.

The symbolism for me is that the Lutheran church represents (sorry, my Lutheran friends) the unregenerate part of my heart that is comfortable with doing things in the old way, whereas the Catholic things represent the life of grace and my concern to find it and stick with it. Same is true of the fact that it is my hometown that is associated with the old. In some of these dreams I am trying to drive to Milwaukee, which is where I became a Catholic. In one rather powerful dream a few years ago, I was required by circumstances to move back to Wisconsin, which meant leaving behind my Catholic community here. I remember waking with a jolt and suddenly being overcome with tears, realizing that, yes, it was only a dream, but more importantly that yes, I really do have a real Catholic community surrounding me here.

I was wondering if I would have another installment in this recurring dream while I was visiting my mom, because we were going back and forth over whether I would be taking her to church (the very one that used to always be the beginning of this dream). I never saw the church in person or in a dream. But the night before leaving, lo and behold, there was one with another weird twist. I've been too tired and busy to think through what my mind is telling me, so that's why it shows up here.

In this dream I was back in my real home. I was with a group of people and we were sort of Christmas caroling door-to-door, except we were actually chanting the Liturgy of the Hours. We came to a specific storefront in my neighborhood (I drove past it today; it's really there!) and stopped to sing in front of it. We were welcomed in to discover that it was -- a Lutheran church! LCA, to be exact (this was the most liberal of the three branches that merged some 25 years ago to form the ELCA). It was packed with people, but its pastor was a former priest, a man I actually love very much (in real life) but who was removed from the priesthood on the decision of his Bishop because of criminal allegations. When I saw that he was the pastor, I first ran to give him a hug, so happy to see him, but then he looked at me, rather crestfallen, as if to acknowledge how disappointed I must have been that he had become Lutheran. I didn't think too much of that, but noticed that all of these Lutherans had rosaries and were excitedly learning about Catholicism. It was a whirlwind of life in there where things were not quite properly Catholic, but definitely not really Lutheran, either. Most of the people in the congregation were black. And some started in on the Liturgy of the Hours with us.

I don't take these things too seriously as prophetic, but if anything, it makes it clear to me that in my mind I see myself standing on the threshold of very new things. And perhaps that life in God is more vital than having appearances all "just so."

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