When I was a little girl, I believed that I was destined to be a saint. I was fixated on the stories of the women who held out their blind faith in spite of swords through breasts, eyes plucked from their sockets, tongues severed at their stems. They were filled with Holy Spirit and fire, with something burning through them they couldn't deny. Their reasons for holding on to their beliefs, no matter what was thrown at them, flared out to me. I was chosen to be the Virgin Mary every May (when we celebrated her in mass in my little Catholic school) for six of my eight years in attendance there. My classmates and teacher would pin a crown of flowers to my head and we'd follow the priest up from the church to the statue of the Virgin, singing "Ave Maria" in hushed tones, where I'd lay my blooms at her marble feet.
In that walk up the hill from the church, I'd feel something like the Holy Spirit moving through me. Coupled with anxiety, love of the patient Blessed Mother, and my own insecurities, I would tremble with each step--not wanting to fail the holy women I revered. But, they never gave up in the face of their fears, so neither would I. Now, thinking back, I recognize that a girl chosen almost every year to be the Virgin Mary--one who sat against the fence in the yard beneath the blowsy, old-fashioned, scarlet roses, reading about saints--dizzy on the perfume of the blossoms and heady faith--was a fairly odd one. Already in me, a seed of strangeness that would bloom again and again...I'd been chosen, but not to be a martyr or saint. I slowly realized, my blind faith wasn't in the God and the Catholic Church I fell away from with my brother's shocking death in my childhood, but in the stories of the women saints. The narrative.
Now, I think of my young adoration of the saints as ideal training for myself as a writer. I know now, that to write, I am called to persist no matter what pain rises through the hollow of my chest, no matter what I see on the page or how it aches, no matter what words slip across my tongue that I cannot keep silent. I am filled with inspiration--which blazes up a lot like the Holy Spirit might. I have to tell the truth. The story has its own reasons. I still am plagued with anxieties, insecurities, and pure love every time I pick up my pen and let the sentences move through me. But I believe in it. Every day, I make word sketches of my life, of what I see, of what I experience, of what I see in characters in my head and in the world. To use my confessional of pen and paper still feels every bit as holy to me as religion once did. I have been chosen, just like all of us who tell our stories have been chosen. Writing is my religion now.