Practicing Resurrection

Author Nora Gallagher's memoir on Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace

Written By Nora Gallagher

Nora GallagherIn mid-November of 1995, during the church season of ordinary time, my brother's radiologist told him he had "zero percent" chance of recovery from the cancer diagnosed only a year earlier. Our family went into a kind of free-fall, and my religious faith took a series of unexpected turns.

Practicing Resurrection is the story of my life at a crossroads, discerning what to do and how to live after my brother's death. The life I led before Kit died no longer made sense. Stretched between meetings, always ten minutes late, increasingly without surprise or humor, I realized I'd lost more than Kit. I'd lost my "own wild life," and a sense of the sacred in the world.

I set out to find "a new way to spend" myself. Practicing Resurrection describes the often unsettling, sometimes comic and finally redemptive process of discovery as I met regularly with a discernment committee to "bet on the irrational" and examine my possible call to priesthood and explore the natural world for profound meaning. The exploration extended to my marriage, to my work as a writer and to the full meaning of life after a death.

When I think about the resurrection now, I don't only think about what happened to Jesus. I think about what happened to his disciples. They went into hiding after the crucifixion, but after the resurrection appearances, they walked back out into the world. They became braver and stronger; they visited strangers, and healed the sick. It was not just what they saw when they saw Jesus, or how they saw it, but what was set free in them. If there is some kind of life after death, what if it's not a life exclusively for the dead? What if it's a life available to us all, something the living can participate in, too.

We spend so much time in the Church "believing" in the resurrection or "not believing," (six impossible things before breakfast) that we may lose the point. What if the resurrection is not about the appearances of Jesus alone but also about what those appearances point to, what they ask. And it is finally what we do with them that matters; make them into superstitions or use them as stepping stones to new life. We have to practice resurrection.

Download an excerpt from the memoir Practicing Resurrection