I’ve been slacking a bit in my dedication to the Church of Catherine. I am trying to feel better about myself, but it’s slow going. I’ve also neglected the (so far) one and only pillar of the Church of Catherine: donating blood. The pillar is worded thusly: If you are able to give blood (physically and emotionally), you must do so as often as you can, to the best of your ability. See August 16th, 2005.
I’ve not donated blood to the best of my ability. I was eligible to donate again in October when I was living in Ottawa. I could have donated twice since August. I don’t want to make excuses because it was naughty.
I finally went in to the Canadian Blood Services clinic in Charlottetown to donate. It took forever. It always takes forever. (Not the administrative stuff - that was quick.) As far as I could tell, it took about 25 minutes to drain the 2 units. I was squeezing that ball like it was going out of style, willing the blood to pour faster so I could take the aching needle out of my arm.
The best part was afterwards. They ask you to go sit in a room for 5 minutes after you donate, have a cookie and some juice to make sure you don’t get dizzy. Sometimes there are volunteers there to chat with you. This day, there were two clean-cut young men there in shirtsleeves. I said hi, they recommended the raisin bread, and I just sat down. Another donor came in and asked where the boys were from. One said Utah (my ears pricked up) and the other said Washington State.
I ate my buttered bread and asked what brings two young men so far to volunteer at a blood donor clinic in Atlantic Canada. The blonde one said they were missionaries. I said, “oh, you’re Mormons,” or something to that effect. We started chatting. Mormons, you see, have a mandatory two-year missionary service when they turn 19 (21 for women). As not to sound like a weirdo Moroni-lover, I told him that I have a couple of degrees studying world religions.
I realized something, so I grabbed the opportunity. “Are there any formal pilgrimages in Mormonism?” I hadn’t thought of it, but I hadn’t investigated official pilgrimages of Mormons while I was working on my thesis. He said, “No, I don’t think so.” By the time Mormon missionaries are actually in the field, they’ve gone through years of formal religious training in preparation, so I guess he’d know. (I’ve looked it up since, and although there are some cities that are considered holy and historically important, I still don’t think it’s a formal spiritual thing.)
So, I convinced the idealist youth that they were on pilgrimages, even if their missionary time wasn’t to a specific religious destination. There were trials, journeys, spiritual enlightenment, and a strengthening of community ties. Check, check, check.
Oh, and by the way, I’m a Mormon now.