This morning on my weekly meandering through PostSecret.com, this postcard jolted me a bit. I didn’t write it, but I could have. Back when I lived in Duluth, Minnesota, I put an inordinate amount of faith into wishes made in tunnels and under bridges. I held my breath and put my hand up in response to an old superstition that says if you can hold your breath till the end of the tunnel, your wish will come true. Except, I don’t really make wishes anymore — instead, I use “wishing” games as an opportunity to pray. So I held my breath through all four tunnels on my daily route through town, and I talked to God every time. I often remember not knowing exactly what to “pray” for, so I’d send up “God’s choice” prayers — basically a request that God would do for me what S/He deemed best.
Now that I no longer drive through tunnels, I’ve fallen away from this practice. Thinking about the practice now, I feel a little ambivalent. Was it a way to bring God into my life on a regular basis, or was it a silly superstition that mocked God? I sometimes made myself dizzy on the longest tunnel because of a belief that if I let out my breath before the tunnel was over, the thing I had asked for wouldn’t come through. And yet, so many of those “bridge prayers” were answered that they took on great significance for me–and some of them are still being answered to this day (especially the “God’s choice” ones.)
I’ve written before about the difficulty I’ve had extracting superstition and bargaining from my relationship with Catholicism. If I hold my breath through the whole tunnel, my prayer will be answered; if I say enough rosaries, I’ll get what I want. I do think that the ritualization of Catholicism lends itself particularly well to this kind of thinking, but I also sometimes wonder if it’s a perversion of my relationship with God. In the past few years, I’ve moved away from a “I’ll do this/you do this” kind of spirituality, but it’s something that kept me holding on to God at many times in my life. And regardless of my methods, that was a good thing.
Do others find themselves entwining “secular” practices with Catholicism? Do you have your own private rituals that make you feel more likely to be heard by God? How do you feel about these types of rituals as a practice? It’s something that continues to fascinate me, but not something that gives me easy answers–which is perhaps what I’d really been hoping for all along.