This morning, I started thinking about the Fourth of July. I don’t have any plans this year, other than to stay in and avoid the heat and crowds. As I was thinking about the holiday, I remembered the time I spent in England two years ago. (Two years and a lifetime.) The Fourth was on Sunday that year, and in class that Monday, our teacher asked us (a class of mostly Americans), “Now, what do you do to celebrate, shoot fireworks and eat turkey?” Eh, mostly right. It’s a small memory that always makes me smile. Then I suddenly remembered how I had celebrated that year. That Fourth of July was the day the class had visited the Bronte house and museum in Haworth.
Haworth. The name of the little village has come to mean something personal to me. Looking back over my spiritual journey, I see the afternoon I spent at the church in Haworth as a turning point, a moment of planting that has continued to grow inside me.
This is an excerpt from the journal I kept for my class while studying in Manchester. From July 5, 2010:
|view of St. Michael and All Angels from parsonage|
It was raining that day, so I had forgone the walk to the moors to just sit in the church. I felt called to just sit in that church. And maybe for the first time ever, I just sat. I let myself do nothing more than exist in a holy space, in silence, alone. I was inspired to write poetry, pouring out emotions in a way I usually didn’t. I prayed to God for help (I was going through some relationship issues that had been magnified by me going overseas for the summer). And I heard God answer. It was an experience I had had before, but not often, and the unexpectedness and the power of this kind of relationship with God was still new and unsettling and exciting to me, though mostly just confusing. At the time, I didn’t have any inkling about the spiritual changes about to take place. The signs were there but I couldn’t read them yet.
But I did know there was something special about that afternoon. A few weeks later in my journal, writing about heading home, I wrote, “A religious experience in Haworth doesn’t mean I’m converting to Church of England.” And maybe not. But maybe it was a hint of my conversion to Catholicism. Now I know the power of just being with God, alone and silent.
And so I remember Haworth as a step in my spiritual journey instead of a place of literary tourism. And I didn’t celebrate American independence that year. Yet it was still a day of my liberation.