What Outlander taught me about being Catholic — Jaime Wendt

I mostly read for pleasure in the twilight of my day, in a liminal space between wakefulness and sleep. Often, I create a sense of peace for myself during this time, so I value stories which are captivating but not gripping. Outlander is not that kind of story.

One night, I could tell that I was approaching the end of the book: there weren’t that many pages left, and one of the main characters, Jamie, had just gone through a harrowing experience. (As a general rule, Outlander exclusively utilizes harrowing experiences, but this one was especially so.) My body was stiff from too much time in the same position, and my eyelids were starting to droop, but I needed to know what happened next. The following scene took place as Jamie and his wife Claire found refuge in a Catholic monastery to recuperate from their physical and spiritual injuries.

This spiritual healing began as one of the monks invited Claire to join the brothers in Eucharistic adoration, a ritual in which individuals pray in the exposed presence of God. Please allow me to unpack that a little bit. Many Christians acknowledge or practice communion (taking bread and wine or juice) as a form of fellowship that emulates Jesus’s behavior in the Last Supper. Catholics name this practice “Eucharist” and believe the bread and wine transform into Christ’s body and blood. It follows, then, that Catholics view the transformed body and blood as extensions of Christ. When the tabernacle, where the church keeps the bread and wine, is opened and the body and blood are exposed, Catholics will silently and individually sit in observance and adoration of the Eucharist, which is Christ before them. This is Eucharistic adoration. It is a sacred ritual for Catholics because it is a moment where we may be physically close to God and experience God’s greatness.

At that point in my faith journey, I had a relatively shallow understanding of my professed religion and no experience with adoration. So, when Claire was entering into the monastery’s chapel for adoration, I was learning about the ritual alongside her. Claire was reluctant to participate in the practice initially, but as her husband’s health failed, she grew more desperate for help. She found it while she was sitting in the chapel during adoration. Despite the fact that she didn’t practice any kind of religion, she found that adoration offered her solace, peace, and courage. In several instances over the series, Claire continues an irregular practice of adoration in times of intense need. 

Upon learning about this valuable Catholic practice, I felt embarrassed and guilty. Certainly, I cannot be responsible for observing every liturgical holiday or memorizing all of the catechism, but Eucharistic adoration seemed like a fairly simple ritual. Imagine me lying in bed, indulging in reading far later than I should be, when I come across an important worship practice. And I didn’t learn about it from a book of prayers or from a priest but from a fabulously soapy, very secular novel! I was having a crisis of confidence, a small-scale dark night of the soul.

Once the guilt fully set in, I put Outlander down for the night and went to bed. For the next few days, I thought about Eucharistic adoration, the feelings it stirred in me, and my lack of devotion to my religious practice. I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of not doing enough and was feeling crushed under the weight of unmet expectations. Then, I took a cue from Claire. I leaned into my sorrow. I sat with it quietly and asked for help. It wasn’t until much later, in the fullness of time, that I received the help that I requested. But, in that moment, I recovered some peace for myself in the quietness of prayer, in acknowledging the immense greatness of a creator God, and in understanding that I was not alone in my guilt and sadness. I haven’t yet been able to make Eucharistic adoration a part of my worship and prayer life. I hope to one day. Until then, when the pressure of life becomes too much, I will remember the peace Claire and I both found by revealing our sorrows and asking for relief.

9 thoughts on “What Outlander taught me about being Catholic — Jaime Wendt”

  1. I identify with this post greatly as I grew up catholic and have a lot of experience with Eucharistic adoration. As a child, I hated it, it was boring and I could only ever think about what I could be doing with friends that didn’t go to church. As a young adult, I now see the peaceful presence it brings, a moment of tranquility outside hectic lives. I recommend trying it out if you can find the time!

  2. Thank you for sharing this incredible experience, Jaime. Your story illustrates how religion can be present in the most unexpected places. I find literature to be a valuable way to potentially see through the eyes of another. Of course, the experiences and feelings of the character and the reader are different and not exactly the same, but there is some level of acknowledging and understanding the character’s position. All the best for you and your faith journey!

  3. Jaime, what a special experience you shared with us — thank you! Guilt, I think, can be a pretty common feeling amongst religious people (of all religions), and can be something people feel ashamed or afraid to talk about. Thank you for being so transparent with your own feelings and experiences (or lack thereof). The humility it takes to be honest about where you’re at inspires and encourages others to do the same, and gets rid of the competitive feeling that some religious environments foster. I also admire how you’ve given yourself grace and patience, how you’re not trying to force anything, but instead have trust in God that when the timing is right He will meet you where you are! Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for Christians (or people — religious or not) who are struggling with feelings of guilt or comparison? Wishing you the best!

  4. Jaime, thank you so much for this post. I will definitely have to add Outlander to my reading list now. Although I can not relate to having undergone a spiritual experience because of a book, I have definitely had similar experiences with music, specifically Leonard Cohen songs as well as some others. Have you ever had a religious experience brought on by music?

  5. Jaime, Thank you for sharing your very personal experience with us (and for showing me a side of Outlander I didn’t know existed, thanks to my very limited knowledge about both books and show). At the Catholic school I attended from kindergarten to eighth grade, we participated in Adoration every Thursday from fifth to eighth grade. We didn’t spend a long time with it because we had to go to our next class, but I enjoyed the peace of the time that we did spend there and how it felt when we were all praying together but focusing on our own thoughts. I hope you’re able to participate in Adoration someday. I’m glad you were able to reach out to God and found comfort and insight; I’ve found prayer to be one of the most helpful parts of my faith because it helps me feel like I am not alone in what I am going through. From another book lover, I wish you many more nights of happy reading.

  6. Jaime, Eucharist is one of the few religious rituals I have actually gotten the chance to observe, and I can appreciate the remorse someone may feel towards ignorance of such a mainstream ritual in Catholicism. I think your eventual reaction and realization of how to deal with negative emotions really speaks to the positive influence faith can have in a life. Much like you mentioned in the book, faith can stabilize a life that feels unbalanced in some crucial way.

  7. Jamie, thank you so much for sharing your story! As a Christian, I can completely relate to the feeling of not meeting the expectations that are set forth for us as Christians. I also find incredible comfort in praying and relying on God when I feel stuck in my faith journey, and he always seems to pull through! I also appreciate your perspective on finding God and learning more about yourself through nonreligious activities. I can certainly relate to this too, as I find the Lord in ordinary unexpected areas throughout my day and life as a whole. Thanks again for sharing! I’m looking forward to talking with you more throughout the year!

  8. Thank you for sharing the practice of Eucharist. I’ve read through others’ comments and it sounds like a calm and fulfilling tradition. I hope you get to experience this for yourself soon.
    I can’t relate to this specifically but I have definitely felt insecure for not knowing/experiencing enough Jewish traditions. In some ways this can feel empowering because you can always grow within religion and do more.

  9. Hi Jaime!
    Thank you for sharing your experience. It is a new term for me but, same with Emerson, Eucharist seems to be a really calming and peaceful practice. I think it is important to be honest and willing to face your negative emotions. I believe that things happen when they ought to be, and you will eventually get where you want to be.

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