I received the invitation around two weeks ago: it was printed on cream-colored paper in red type, the words Ordination to the Diaconate flashing from the middle of the left column. It was the first time I’d seen N. in a long, long while, and he’d gone out of his way to personally deliver the card.
It always strikes me as surreal when bits of my past lives surface and collide with the present one. N.’s presence in the studio felt like a ray of light from a long-dead star: memories of sitting in Dr. A.’s advanced epistemology class surrounded by Jesuit scholastics flooded my mind, along with recollections of days and nights spent in the rapt and serene study of philosophy texts. Those were some of the most tranquil years of my life—the calm before the storm that started when I turned 30 and which hasn’t quite abated.
I suddenly felt awkward standing in front of N., with my bare arms and legs and with images of the studio’s classes flashing in the flat screen television behind me. He was in a radically different world from the one we both commonly inhabited years ago—the world of a cerebral and disincarnate Catholic philosophy juxtaposed against the world of a concrete and embodied yoga philosophy. It was the first time in my career as a yoga instructor that I actually felt…New Age.
But precisely because he was a Jesuit (the most, er, New Agey of the Catholic religious orders alongside the Cenacle Sisters I suppose), N. remained unfazed. We spent a few minutes more chatting about how time had flown so quickly, where former classmates had gone on to, and how much time still remained before his ordination to the priesthood (the date had already been set for April next year). Then he departed with the rest of the invitations he had yet to deliver. And just like that, the light from the dead star faded.
Today, I stood at the back of a jam-packed Church of the Gesù and watched as N. and several other former classmates underwent their ordination. I didn’t anticipate how visceral my reaction to the rites would be: the sight of the diaconal candidates prostrating themselves on the floor as the choir sang the litany of the saints evoked a completely unexpected yearning and nostalgia that culminated in tears. In the rawness of those unforeseen emotions, I suddenly glimpsed two worlds overlapping—the cerebral and the concrete, the disembodied and the incarnate, the old and the new.
And just like that, a dead star flared back to life.