CREATIVE Catherine Haines

NWR Issue 115

My Oxford

‘I’ll let you know.’
‘Cath?’
‘Yes?’
‘Why don’t you eat something?’
Most days, someone said, Why don’t you eat, as though I were making a choice to refuse food. Switching off hunger isn’t purely volitional. What people don’t understand is how scared I was, because I couldn’t eat. I wanted to eat. I really did. But I genuinely believed that it was the wrong thing to do, and therefore that I would be punished if I did it. If I ate, I would go to Hell.

5. Easter

I sat alone on the far end of one of the pews, with the other Catechumens. After a series of scripture readings, we were presented to the parish community, who prayed for us with the Litany of the Saints. Next, the priest blessed the water. We renounced our sins and professed our faith, after which we were anointed, sealing the covenant created in Baptism. Once all the Catechumens had been blessed, we were invited to take communion.
I knelt and bowed my head in humility and modesty while I took the bread and wine. It was an act of sacred cannibalism, in symbolic form; I was eating Jesus, becoming Jesus, the tasting was literal, I ate the end of shame, the end of guilt, I ate Grace. I understood quite literally that Christ died to save me – by providing bread I had earned during months of hunger hell.
I returned to my room. I had planned to break my fast with a hot cross bun, since not only is bread the body of Christ, but also I had not eaten carbohydrates for months. Folklore said that a piece of it was given to someone who was ill to help him or her recover. I went to my room and looked at the bun and picked it up and ground it into dust and placed it in the bin.

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