Two important things about me:
I am Catholic
I am an army brat
Don’t be offended by that second one; it’s a badge we wear with honour, us Brats.
It’s important to know I am Catholic because, well, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing for this website. It’s more important, though, because Catholicism, a gift to us from Christ through the Church informs who I am, how I think, how I try to behave, how I want to live.
Until the age of twelve (or so) mine was an a-religious home. We were good, kind, decent folk, but church services and theological talk were not part of our family culture. My dad had been raised Catholic (his people are from the staunch Catholic bit of Holland) but he left it behind when he left home to join the army. Mom’s family were unchurched (being from the bit of Holland not particularly Christian of any variety). I was always aware of “a” God, though I didn’t know Who that was. I definitely felt a fatherly presence, and have always been drawn to God the Father.
|My dad and I, soon after God claimed us for His own.|
|Freiburg, Germany: close to home.|
Military schools (by which I mean schools provided for the offspring of military personnel – not schools to be trained in the military arts) in my day provided obligatory religion classes, and we all attended either the Protestant or the Catholic class depending on which box our parents ticked during registration. I think his mama’s prayers for his troubled soul is what made it important for my dad that I be marked down with an RC rather than a P... what could it matter otherwise, since we weren’t either one at home. Once a week we would go to separate classrooms to be put through our paces: Jesus wore sandals, here is Nazareth on the map, etc. It wasn’t until a dynamic priest by the name of Father Bob began to visit that I had any sense that there was more to this being Catholic business. He was chipper, funny, engaged and engaging. He ended every visit with the encouragement to bug our parents gently to take us to Church. And so I did. (One of the few times in my life I wasn’t contrary) The timing was perfect – God’s Providence at work. Mom had always felt attracted to the Catholic Church and here was outside prompting to explore it; Pop was able to hear the call to come back without resentment. So the four of us (I have one younger sister) went to our first ever Mass at the small chapel on the Base... and have never looked back. Father Bob and his brother in arms, Father Colin took us under their wings, and saw to our instruction. My mom, my sister, and I were baptised together, and mom and I were Confirmed at the same time. My parents had their marriage blessed, witnessed by their two daughters.
From there my journey of faith has included visiting Taize twice – once for Holy Week. It remains one of the defining experiences of my life. Being only twelve at the time, it was a very powerful introduction to meditative prayer and I fell in love with the iconography and chants of the community. As a young adult I was introduced to the Charismatic Renewal, through which I learned a lot about my faith: Church doctrine, traditions and practices, prayer, lives of the saints, and so on. Then came the Carmelites, and my faith deepened, simplified, and grew quiet. The path from Fr. Bob to today, if drawn as a map, would show many landmarks, obstacles, and rest stops. Though it hasn’t always been an easy road to travel, I know there is no other road for me – this is the only one that makes sense, the only one that answers a deep need I can’t really explain.
|Taize icon of the Lamb and Cross|
Being an army brat has had a huge impact on who I am. First of all, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel and live in interesting places. I was born in Germany and lived there for nine years, and travelled through Europe while there. I saw the world through eyes other than North American – and there sure is a difference! We also moved a lot. I went to nine schools and by the time I left high school had lived in 14 different houses. (My personal tally now is well over 20 moves.) While I enjoyed and appreciate the experiences I’ve had, I know that being so constantly on the move has affected my ability to maintain relationships long-term, or let people get close. It did encourage development of inner resources, though, which led to voracious reading, and then to compulsive writing. My personal blog puts it this way: “I love words - the power of them, the sounds of them, the meanings of them. I'm not very good at spelling them. I write from a desire to delight in how words share stories and ignite ideas. I write because it is how I wrestle with myself and the world. I retreat to The Lighthouse because only in solitude will the words come whispering to me.” My love for words (and my compulsion for organization and the need to know the answers) directed me to work in libraries, and recently have begun to dabble in writing with the hope of being published some day.
Where does TFG fit into this long story about me? Well, both aspects – the Catholic, and the traveller – came together when living in one place enabled me to make friends with one person, through whom I met her sister, and through her I met Sarah. We kept bumping into each other at various Masses and parties. Then one weekend we found ourselves at the same retreat for women, centred on the theme of Beauty. Driving north with my sister to attend the retreat, I told her about my desire to do something for women; elsewhere Sarah was experiencing the same yearning. Serendipity brought the two of us together that weekend, and out of it has come The Feminine Gift.
I wouldn’t change anything about where I’ve been or what I’ve done, but I do find myself hoping to find “home” and settle down. Single and of a certain age, I still don’t know if marriage is in the cards for me, but this lonely heart yearns for companionship. Being single is a sacrifice I offer for young families who maybe don’t have time to spend in prayer.
*I can’t afford a pied-a-terre in Paris, so I have a nom-de-plume – a pen name. Tess is the name I use for much of my writing. In real life, without pen in hand, I'm known as Tricia. I’m very pleased to meet you!