December 4, 2006

Rituals: the oath

This last year has been a year of rituals for me. My papa's funeral, my wedding, graduation, my dad's funeral, and any number of smaller rituals like my gran's 80th Birthday, Fourth of July barbeques, being a guest at other people's weddings and birthdays, and more.

Today, I added one more: I took the oath to become a member of the California Bar and to become admitted to the United States Court for the Northern District of California. I am officially a lawyer.

It was more emotional than I expected. I opted to take the oath through the local bar association at a local Jesuit university. This meant the oath was administered in a Catholic church.


I'd meant to go visit a church ever since Daddy passed away. His funeral was outdoors, as it should have been. He went through a few years of regular church attendance to support us in our religious education, but after and before that, it was not a major part of his life. So, it wasn't a major part of his funeral either. We had an ordained minister perform the ceremony, but truly, the memorable part for everyone was the memorial party afterward, not the actual funeral.

Anyways, I like churches. But I don't go on a regular basis. I'm not exactly the brand of christianity that most churches support given my focus on zen buddhism, taoism, and whatever else seems to work for me on the spiritual level. But, unlike many of my demographic, I haven't completely abandoned or rejected the idea of Church either. When I travel to foreign countries, I often go visit the local Christian church, whatever its denomination may be. Generally, I kneel and say a prayer of thanks and awe and love, and, often, I cry. If there are candles, I buy one and light it. If there's a statue dedicated to a saint, I learn about that saint and do the same. More often than not, the denomination is Catholic, which is convenient because my upbringing was 3 years of Lutheranism and several intermittent years of Catholicism mixed with random other Christian church outings.

So basically, my rare visits to churches tend to be big emotional events like Weddings, Funerals, heartfelt prayers of thanks in foreign lands, and the like. I show up ready to cry.

Today was no different. Daddy would have wanted to be there. I wanted him there. And, of course, I hadn't yet taken the time to go do my ritual at a church since his death. So, today's visit to the church was also a big emotional event.

Thankfully, the holy water was accessible to the side of the registration table. I walked through the heavy dark wood doors and took a deep breath. The church was beautiful. I crossed myself with the holy water and selected the alter in front of the saint (?) holding a baby. Unlike usual, I didn't have the church to myself and couldn't take the time to read about the saint. So, I quickly looked to the ground and said a prayer of thanks, asked for a blessing on my future life and career and a hello and good wishes to Dad.

Then, I walked outside and met E. I cried briefly, sad, but proud of myself.

In an amazing display of efficiency (which is why I opted for this ceremony over the State Bar ceremony), A and I took our seats at the front of the church, we followed a state judge and a federal judge through our oaths and 40 minutes later, we were lawyers. It felt right to share that moment with her. I noted that we were the only oath-takers I could see who hugged immediately after saying, "I will." A is yet another reason why I am thankful tonight.

Dinner was a big celebratory Italian meal at one of our local favorite restaurants. The chef was in fine form and spent quite a bit of time entertaining us. He raved about his all-vegetarian lentil soup -- apparently, it's that time of year. E and I agreed: mine won on flavor, but his won on texture. You just can't beat a perfectly puréed soup.

And tomorrow, what do you know? I will go to work for my first day as a real lawyer.

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