A Catholic's Book of Shadows
hello friends, At least one of you has requested to know more about my spiritual practices and customs, being a roman catholic who occasionally reads tarot, can raise eyebrows after all. I don't know of a better way of introducing this post, so let's get right into it.
My Personal Spiritual Journey, In two minutes
The first thing you have to understand about me, is that the church was always my safe space, growing up I know this is not typical for most neuro divergent/queer folks. But this was my experience, I suffered a lot of abuse and trauma from in the public school system. From both teachers and fellow students, I won't go into that here but suffice to say The church was the only place that I felt loved for who I was. Not to mention because of my disabilities I was not allowed to try many things that other people get to experience in their childhood, except a church camp were they always found a way to include me, even an archery which must have knocked several years off the instructor's lives. But they let me do archery while half blind and spastic how's that for radical inclusion. Then my brother committed suicide and I started questioning basically everything about my life and identity.
As part of that process I looked at every religion in the book, I literally got a book on comparative religions just so I could shop around so to speak, and see what felt authentic. Through that process I came to realize there were essentially two options. neopaganism specifically wicca or roman catholicism. I also seriously considered judaism and Jainism, and also reviving the Valentinian heresy of the second century. however those speculations are for another post.
Here is where I make the neopagans in the audience cringe a friend recommended one of silver ravenwolf's works I believe it was To Ride a Silver Broomstick, as a good guide to getting started. To say it may be run in the opposite direction would be a fantastic feet of understatement. What I didn't know then was there were several critiques of ravenwolf's entire body of work especially that one, and who knows if I had found Deborah Lipp first I might now be practicing wiccan. But this is not the world that unfolded and here I am a catholic.
Religion of Practice, Religion of Community
Unlike most other forms of Christianity, roman catholicism was not just built upon believing the right things. Or accepting jesus christ in your heart as it were. Catholicism asserts that the personal relationship with jesus christ is necessary but not sufficient, for healthy spiritual life. You also have to keep the seven sacraments, and to put it in the words of the apostle Paul. Carry each other's burdens. or if you prefer Jesus just read the parable of the good samaritan in its full historical context. What this means is you have to act out the virtue of universal compassion in the world. If you don't do this catholicism asserts that your relationship with divinity becomes a one sided Parasocial phenomenon, which only exists in your head. But if you act out of compassion for your fellow human beings, and place that at the center of your life, then your life will become overflowing with boundless graces and gifts, and you will become a beacon of hope to others. In other words the more you give of yourself in love to the world, the more authentically yourself you will become.
I know this is confusing, but it is far more then not being a dick. Catholicism is about honoring god and loving the world.
Paths and Practice
The catholic church recognizes that everyone we'll live this out differently. depending upon their state of life means and resources. So other than keeping the seven sacraments especially going to mass regularly. There is a lot of room for interpretation, and individual expression within the tradition. For example I didn't even own a rosary until a year after my conversion. And I use the rosary differently than most people but we'll get to that later. we call these spiritualities or spiritual paths. Most Catholics take on the spiritual path of whoever taught them, and only individuate later in life it's at all. And let's face it there is a lot of prescriptivism particularly in american catholicism. There are some people who will insist quite vehemently that not doing it the way they were taught is somehow wrong. Or dangerous in some way. There are even some people who will try to force their particular brand of spirituality on entire communities. this prescriptivism is wrong and needs to stop. Everyone comes to god in their own way. The only thing one must remember is god is god and you is not. Ask fearlessly but never think you are in control. This introduction is getting long and I could frankly go on forever. The tradition is so rich and so vast that is it impossible to do it justice in the short space I have here.
My personal practice
The Black book
Now we get to the good stuff what does my personal practice look like. Well I mentioned I briefly experimented with neopaganism. One of the traditions I like from that system. It's called the book of shadows, every wiccan keeps one that is full of personal spiritual reflections, rituals and prayers, spells and such. sort of a personal spiritual diary and breviary all in one.
My book is digital for now, although I do intend to have printed when I am happy with the state it's in, and money allows. It doesn't contain spells it's a mix of bible quotations, interesting prayers most of which I didn't write. Some terrible prayers which I did in fact write, biography is of obscure saints usually copied from wikipedia. The odd recipe or two. My personal calendar of observances. My personal litany of saints. And a few other things that I'd prefer to keep private. The book is the foundation on which my catholic practice is built.
I try to write in it at least once a week, what I typically do is copied down any interesting prayers or hymns I've heard in the week before. Any snippets from the readings for the week that particularly stuck out to me. I very rarely date anything. But each page has a title. For example this week's page is entitled "Cures for nightmares", and so far contains the text of the hymn For All the Saints Who From Their Labors Rest. the text of Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and not much else for the moment. When I use it for prayer I do the digital equivalent of flipping through the book for a page with a title I want and go from there.
I need to come up with a better name for this book it was inspired by books of shadow but that title doesn't fit it, neither does grimoire, but I don't want to go with something like book of light. Because that seems insulting. Right now I'm calling it the black book but the cover of mine might end up being purple when it's printed. And it is not exactly a spiritual journal more like a personal breviary.
End of part one
I was originally going to give you the whole bag of tricks in one massive four thousand word wall of text. But I think we'll make this a series of blogs instead. The next section well probably be on what exactly a personal calendar of observances is and how I built mine carried
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