I was raised in a Catholic home, have gone to private schools my whole life and was never exposed to any other religion or culture. I had never talked with or met anyone of a different religion until I was eighteen. As I have made my way through Xavier, I have spoken with people from all different walks of life. I have learned to accept other religions and cultures and have grown in my faith and spirituality through learning about others’ beliefs. Though I am still a practicing Catholic, I have found much more fulfillment in my life through the spiritual aspects of life in addition to traditional Catholic practices. I have formed my own unique faith by taking what I find true in the Church combined with beliefs I have learned from different religions and beliefs I have developed through deep conversations with people I am closest to.
On Friday night, we celebrated a Shabbat dinner. It was my first exposure to Judaism and I must say I loved it. For those of you who don’t know, Hebrew is read right to left, so the booklets we used to follow the prayers were reversed. I spent some time trying to figure out why all the pages were messed up, concluding they were simply printed wrong. Rabbi reminded us that Hebrew and Arabic are read right to left. As Rabbi recited the prayers in Hebrew, a sense of peace and happiness filled the room. Though I did not understand the language it was still very moving knowing that these exact words have been used for centuries throughout all of the world and in all walks of life. He blessed each of us as his daughters (or sons) and that in and of itself was a beautiful experience. We then gathered around the challah (bread). We broke bread by each placing a hand on it and pulling it apart. Coming from a Catholic home the host has always been very sacred, so pulling the bread apart was a bit of a surprise to me. Rabbi explained we do not use a knife because that is a symbol of violence. The pulling apart of the challah created a united family within the team because we all ate from the same source. It was a time of pure happiness, a time in which we shared and experienced the same exact thing at the same exact time (not to mention challah is delicious!). The breaking of the challah is just one of those things - it is so simple yet everyone gets excited for it. The candles were lit, prayers had been said, the challah was shared and memories were made. Our Jewish Shabbat dinner was celebrated in the heart of ancient Mayan culture and though Judaism and Mayan Spiritualism they became intertwined that weekend.
Last year, the two sisters that translate for us, Deanna and Michelle, were at the Shabbat dinner with their father, Miguel. Rabbi shared with us that he taught their father how to bless his daughters in the Jewish tradition and the father shared with Rabbi how to bless his [Rabbi’s] daughters in the Mayan tradition. He told us that it was something that he would never forget because here was a Jewish Rabbi and a Mayan spiritualist connecting at the source of the purest love there is, the love for their children.
On Saturday, we were able to experience Mayan culture. Miguel, Deanna and Michelle joined us at dinner and taught us about marimbas. Marimba is an instrument that has been used in Mayan tradition for centuries. Miguel taught us how they were made and the girls played beautiful songs unlike any music I had ever heard. He spoke about the Mayan calendar and this year in which it is supposed to end. He said that his grandfather spoke about 2012 many years ago when he was just a child. There are two parallel universes. We live in our own universe in which we create our own happiness; everything is based on our own lives. The second universe is the universe of reality. According to the Mayans, on the 21st of December 2012, our own individual universe will be judged. If we have lived a compassionate, selfless, respectful life, we will have help on the twelve steps to heaven. If we have lived selfish, disrespectful lives we will be sent to the core of the Earth (equivalent of hell in Christian belief) and will have no help in escaping. Without help is impossible to get out. To be honest, this scares me because I have a lot left in life I want to accomplish and twelve months is certainly not enough time to complete my goals. I am not going to listen to the media; whatever will come will come and nothing I do will change it. Therefore, I will continue leading a life full of compassion, respect, faith, hope, love and selflessness. Isn’t that how we should be living anyway, regardless of a fear of the end of the world (which in my belief is really a new beginning)? My New Year’s resolution is to turn any fear into pure love for all of humanity.