Monday, 10 June 2013

Pyramids, Circles and Rainbows
Julie’s Letter to the Pope

Dear Pope Francis,
Now that I’m back in Liverpool and Drama School’s done for the summer, I pop down to the Cathedral quite a bit. I was in the cafe last Tuesday, when I read your quote in the Catholic Herald: “We are not expressions of a structure or an organisational need,” you said. “The spirit of the world turns us into functionaries, clerics more worried about themselves than about the true good of the People of God.”
Your words brought back memories. Once, at Sixth Form, we went on a trip to Loyola Hall, a big old retreat house at Rainhill, with miles and miles of mysterious corridors, and grounds choc-a-bloc with roses, chrysanthemums and bluebells. The priest – a wizened Scottish fella – said that when Christ died and rose He dismantled the old structures and pyramids of power once and for all. Christ came among us as an equal and a brother, he said, to show us a new way of living and being – the way of the circle.

That word, ‘circle.’ That’s what got me into acting in the first place, you know. At college again. Mister Daly used to sit us down in a circle on the floor. “The circle’s what it’s all about,” he’d tell us. “It doesn’t matter who you are – a cat, a child, a magician – the circle stills the mind and brings us together. You can live inside it. You can play with it. Either way, it gives us everything we need, as actors and as human beings.”
That’s why I like this Cathedral, you see. Because it’s a circle. You wouldn’t think so from outside, mind. It’s more like a sky rocket – springing, bursting, erupting, thrusting, coming at you from the top of Hope Street – a crowned and spiky pyramid.

Inside it’s different. The roof slopes gently up all the way round, but at the bottom, where I’m sat, it’s a circle. Long benches fan out and around from the High Altar. It’s cool and dark, but shimmering with light. Slim blue vertical stained-glass strips line the circle, as blue as the sparkling sea in my old storybooks.
I stand up, and tiny flashes of red spring to life on the blue, like glow-worms or Hebrew letters. High on the walls, the tapestries flow and stream around the concrete bowl – Our Lady of Liverpool, Christ and the Magic Book, flakes of fire falling on the Apostles’ heads. I close my eyes and the wheel of my mind stops whirring. I’m free, for a moment, from the daily whirl of mad thoughts and impossible desires.
I open my eyes and look up. At the top of the cone, the bit that looks like a crown from outside, the colours rotate and revolve in the sun – red with flashes of white to the right, shading to purple and red, then violet and blue, blending to a soft and summery green. Like pebbles on Southport beach.
I remember the Narnia book where they sail to the end of the world. There’s a tall wave, like a curtain, at the point where this world ends and the next one begins. Lucy and Edmund see mountains through the wave, on the other side of the sun, rainbow colours bouncing off the rocks and grass – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet – spinning around in an open, fluid circle, on and on, forever and ever …

photo credit
Now I’m on the boulevard – Princes Street – leaning on an old-fashioned lamp-post, with sunlight warming my face through the green leaves. I don’t know how I got here. Sometimes the Cathedral has a funny effect on me. The grass at my feet is tufty, the path dusty. On either side are houses of wondrous beauty, with big red doors, chipped white columns and two bay windows each. Like the big hotels in Llandudno.
I spin around. At the end of the road, I can see the Anglican Cathedral tower, with the domes of the Greek Church in front. I look at the tower carefully. It doesn’t seem itself somehow, not as firm and solid as usual. I can see through it, in fact. It's gone all transparent. Oh wow!

Because there, on the other side, is the spiky crown of the Catholic Cathedral – rainbow lights spiralling around the top – changing, melting, transforming into something else, something I can’t make out, something too bright, too dazzling, to see. I shield my eyes, lose my balance and hit the deck. A car horn beeps. Someone shouts something rude. I rub my head, look up, and the tower’s just like it used be, as impressive and impassive as ever. A second Mount Fuji.

I smile. It’s reassuring in a way. I don’t think I’m ready to go to the end of the world just yet :-)

Well, there you go. Mister Daly was right, I suppose. This is what it’s all about. For yourself as Pope and me (in my own way) as a punter: water into wine, pyramids into circles, circles into rainbows, forever and ever…
So, long may the Cathedral calm our minds and bring us peace. Long may rainbow Catherine Wheels glitter and glow around the top. May both the silence and the lights set our hearts and minds and souls on fire.

Thank you for your time,
All the very best,

Julie Caroline Carlton,

Julie Carlton is the central protagonist in my novel in progress, All Saints.


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