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Excerpt from "What If We're Him"

by Gene Pascucci


THE FIRST QUESTIONING

Available at fine bookstores, www.amazon.com, and www.whatifwerehim.com 

The beginning… as experienced through the eyes of an innocent child. How easy it is to become confused and forget who we are. Every life emerges from someplace.

Each of us begins our own unique life journey without much recollection of how we got here, where we came from, or what we’re supposed to be doing while we’re here. My earliest memory of becoming aware of myself was while riding with my sister in the back of my parents 1949 blue convertible Studebaker. I was two-and-a-half years old. I was staring at the seat but not paying attention to the seat. My mind had a thought, “Something is ‘up’ here.” I had a sense of “myself” being here.

At the tail end of a long journey west from Yonkers, New York, to Reno, Nevada, we were riding up a hill to see a home my parents were going to buy. As it turned out, the house was an old 400-square-foot shack without a foundation. It was a bunkhouse on an old ranch owned by a family named Evans. There was a large yard out front and the University of Nevada, Reno bordered the backyard.

There was this huge, old oil-burning heater in the living room that defined the meaning of smelly. We quickly learned to appreciate the wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen. My sister Janet and I used to fight over the chair that we’d put next to it to warm our clothes in the chilly mornings before getting dressed for school. My father, a house painter and carpenter, started to remodel this rundown place we called home. Mom was a homemaker and she gave birth to my younger sister Paula a year later. We were poor but we didn’t know it because we were rich in family.

I was getting ready to start the first grade. Mom enrolled us in Catholic school and I had no idea what that meant. Our teachers were a group of nuns dressed in black gowns with little white habits that made it hard to see their faces. Originally from the Dominican Republic of Cuba, they didn’t speak English very well as Spanish was their native language, which they taught us along with our other subjects. For the next eight years, I was initiated in the Roman Catholic faith.

We learned about the Bible. In my little world, this story was being told about this essence called God, who invents Heaven and Earth in six days and then takes a break on the seventh. He creates a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. They live in a place called the Garden of Eden and God tells them they can do anything they want—except eat from the Tree of Knowledge. As the story unfolds, this evil character called the Devil, who’s disguised as a snake, approaches Eve. He tells Eve that if Adam eats an apple from the Tree of Knowledge they can be as powerful as God. She gets Adam to eat the apple. Of course, God finds out and becomes very angry with them. So He tells Adam and Eve they must leave the Garden of Eden and casts them out. Their disobedience is called the “Original Sin” against God.

Later God reveals to them that He plans to send His only begotten son, Jesus, down to Earth to be crucified for their sins. He will be nailed to a cross and hung there to die so they can be forgiven. This will allow them to get back into His good graces so when they die, they can go to Heaven and live with Him forever.

In order to be cleansed of this Original Sin, a priest must baptize every newborn by dipping the child’s head in holy water and saying a blessing. If you’re not baptized, you can’t get into the Kingdom of Heaven and be with God.

Two things happened to me around this time. First, a couple of older kids in the neighborhood talked me into breaking into a friend’s house to steal some gum his mother kept in the kitchen. Back then, nobody locked their doors, so we waited until no one was home. We went right through the front door and grabbed the gum (“Double Mint,” I remember thinking, “I wish it was ‘Juicy Fruit’”). Next, we ran outside into their backyard and filled our mouths with more pieces than we could chew. We still had some left over when we realized we’d left the front door open. We ran back in, closed the door, and I raced home with the gum that was leftover and frantically tried to hide it—first in my shoes, then under my bed, and finally in the drawer with my underwear and socks. But it was eating a hole in my soul. I’d done something awfully wrong. What would my parents think?

Finally, I went to Dad and told him what we’d done. He took me to my friend’s house and confessed to his mom. I was so afraid. I felt like “Leave it to Beaver” and worried that maybe they were going to put me in jail or something worse. Here I was six years old and a burglar. I knew I’d never do this again.

The second thing that happened: Mom became very sick and was far away from us at a hospital in California, and every weekend, Dad would travel to visit her. He took us along once. When we went into the room, she was in bed and not really with it. She was drooling. Mom was having some serious emotional problems and taking some very powerful medicine. The doctor said she was having a nervous breakdown, so she was undergoing electroshock therapy, a very aggressive form of psychiatric treatment.

I was so happy to see her and yet so worried that something was terribly wrong. I started to cry and told her that I wanted to help her get better. She gave me a little chocolate- colored poodle she’d made out of yarn. It looked just like our dog, Gigi. I just remember feeling so… what’s the word? HELPLESS!

In my naïve innocence, I thought stealing the gum was the reason Mom became sick. It was my fault and this was God’s way of punishing me for being bad. I remember praying and asking Him for forgiveness in hopes that she’d be herself again and come home soon. Mom told me to behave and help Dad with my two sisters.

By second grade, I was instructed on how to receive my First Holy Communion, a very special ceremony. We worked very hard learning all of the Church’s rituals including our first Confession. This meant going into a small booth and telling the priest the sins we’d committed against God. Afterwards, the priest would ask God’s forgiveness and grant us absolution, so our souls could be pure again. The priest then gave us penance, or prayers to say, telling God we were sorry and promising Him we’d never commit them again. Once finished with Confession, we were prepared to receive our First Holy Communion.

First Holy Communion is called a Sacrament. It’s a sacred miracle that Jesus performed with the apostles the night before he was crucified and died on the cross. When the priest conducts the Mass, we believe he’s performing the same miracle, where the bread and wine are transformed and turned into the body and blood of Christ. As the priest puts a small wafer of pressed bread called “the Host” into our mouths, we’re told that we’re taking God into our body.

We learned that Jesus was an enlightened “Being,” born in a barn, and placed in a feeding manger. His father Joseph was not really Jesus’ birth father because His mother, Mary, gave birth to Him without having sex. This was called the “Immaculate Conception.” Jesus went through some terrible experiences in His life. Men tried to kill him when He was just a baby. As He grew older, Jesus began exhibiting special powers; He talked to people and could perform miracles and heal them, even raising one man from the dead. His main message was—everyone should love one another.

The Roman government and the Jewish establishment both became troubled by Jesus’ growing power among the people. But as a child, the story got very confusing for me. I couldn’t figure out if Jesus was a Jew, or if the Romans wanted to kill Him, or if the Jews wanted Him killed because they feared His power and disowned him.

Nonetheless, Pontius Pilate, a Roman officer, held a trial and convicted Jesus of crimes He didn’t commit. They did outrageous things to Him. They beat Him, placed a crown of thorns on His head, and forced Him to carry a cross through the town of Galilee up to a hilltop, where they nailed His hands and feet to the same wooden cross, stabbed Him in His side with a spear, and left Him to hang until He died. The Church believed this was all part of God’s plan for man’s salvation, to save us from our sins.

We also learned about the Ten Commandments and Heaven and Hell. God gave this set of rules to a man named Moses to share with the people so we’d know, in God’s eyes, what was right and wrong. No matter what, we needed to be good people so when we died we’d go to Heaven and be with God. Hell, on the other hand, was this horrible place where the evil Devil lived. If we failed to be sorry for our sins, we’d go to there and burn in a fiery inferno for eternity. This was terrifying to me.

Just as there were different levels of sins, there were other rules to keep in mind as well. For instance, you had to obey your parents and couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. But there were other more serious sins called “mortal sins;” these included missing Mass on Sunday when you were physically able to go, and committing murder, both punishable by going directly to this fiery Hell for eternity when you died.

Dad took me to church for my first Confession to the priest and I was so scared because I’d stolen the gum with those two kids. When I confessed, the priest said God forgave me. Then he had me recite the “Act of Contrition,” a lengthy prayer asking for forgiveness along with some other prayers as penance to express further sorrow for my wrongdoing. I was relieved. I was worried he was going to tell me to buy some gum and put it back in my friend’s house. I didn’t have any money and I certainly didn’t want to risk sneaking back into their house.

Finally, the day of my First Holy Communion arrived, and I called Mom at the hospital to find out what I should do. I had a new white shirt, coat, pants, and this really cool silk ribbon on my right arm. I was so hopeful she’d get better and come home soon.

Something happened that day that initiated a whole series of questions inside me. I was so excited standing in line, moving closer to the altar where the priest was giving out the wafer of bread that was Jesus’ body. Any second now, I was going to have God in my body.

Closer… closer… closer… my heart was pounding! I was next! The priest put this small wafer of bread on my tongue and said, “The Body of Christ.” My reply was, “Amen.”

In that moment, I was so exuberant that I inhaled the wafer and sucked it right into my throat where it stuck to my soft palate. I quickly turned away from the priest and started to gag. I immediately thought I did something wrong but I was too afraid to stick my finger in my mouth and touch it. It might be sacrilegious because only the priest was allowed to touch “the Host.” As I was gagging, I rubbed and rubbed my tongue against my palate trying to free it, all the while doing my best to make sure no one noticed.

As I write this, it’s still such a vivid memory. Finally, I managed to get the Host free and swallow it while this remarkable impulse welled up within me: I felt separated from it all. It was like being in a movie where I projected out of and above the scene. I looked at this wooden cross above the altar with this bloody body hanging on it. I stared at these two statues, one of Mary, Jesus’ mother, and the other of Joseph, his sort-of father. Then I observed the Twelve Stations of the Cross on the sidewall that were the depictions of Jesus being beaten, hanging on the cross, and dying for the sins I’d committed, so I could go to Heaven and be with God. There was a third statue that always fascinated me of Jesus’ hands clasped around His bleeding Sacred Heart exposed through His garments.

I looked at the priest dressed in his costume garb, then the nuns dressed in black, their faces barely visible peaking out of their habits. There was the altar table, fitted in crisp white linens beneath a huge sacred book, a golden chalice goblet that contained the Hosts, and the multitude of candlesticks with all the burning candles. I watched all the kids and then all our parents.

This thought came screaming into my mind… “THERE’S SOMETHING GOING ON HERE!” I thought to myself, “I have to figure out what’s going on. What’s this all about?

Why does everyone believe all this?”

g*

Dr. Gene Pascucci, a successful 55-year old Reno, Nevada, dentist – and mystic! -- has written an intimate and inspiring, autobiographical “personal search for God” book that belongs in every spiritual seeker’s library. In What If We’re Him? There’s Something Going On Here – The Transformation of Spirituality (Gene Pascucci Publishing, 2010), Pascucci tells his story of growing up in a Catholic household, confronted at an early age by guilt and doubt, and his subsequent 47-year search for a personal spiritual truth that would ultimately set him free, providing redemption, resurrection, and a new life.

Can you find yourself in Gene’s story? Briefly, here are some details from Pascucci’s life. How many of them sound familiar? ….

• Enrollment in Catholic school and initiation into the Catholic faith.

• As a child, on a dare, breaking into a friend’s home and stealing a pack of chewing gum, the guilt eating a hole in his soul.

• A mother in electroshock therapy treatment for a severe nervous breakdown, and thinking that stealing the gum may have caused her illness.

• At age eight, when receiving first Holy Communion, getting the wafer stuck on the roof of his mouth, gagging; the trauma popping him out of the ritual into an observer state, saying to himself, “THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON HERE! I have to figure out what is going on. What is this all about? Why does everyone believe all this?”

• At age 14, discovering the pleasures of masturbation, and adding the guilt to his burden of suffering.

• At age 17, having sex outside of marriage. Still more guilt.

• Getting his girlfriend pregnant and going through with an abortion. Living with the experience of being a murderer.

From age eight (the Holy Communion awakening), Gene had been drawn to question and understand the most profound realities of Life. Who are we? What is God? What are we here for? He almost attended seminary to become a priest but decided that family life with children was more his path.

But his need to know these deepest truths – the answers to these essential questions and his own personal redemption -- never left awareness. Pascucci notes, “I have invested the greater part of my free time and personal resources; traveling, reading, studying, sitting in lectures, listening to CD’s and watching videotapes and DVD’s, in order to study everyone I could find, who I felt knew something about what I most wanted to know.

“This book is a distillation of hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours in endless study of books, travel, lectures, seminars, and discussions, along with many sleepless nights. It is a synthesis of what became unveiled to me, living in this vigorous inquiry process.”

Of course, while engaged in this lifelong search for truth, meaning, and personal redemption, Gene completed dental school, married and raised a family, and developed a popular and successful dental practice in Reno, where he still works and resides with his family.


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