[A/N]I've changed most of the names for this, save for the ones that I have permission to use for this purpose. That said, enjoy [Edit: Formatting adjusted.]
This is my landmark.
Some years back, a fellow named Dr. Arnold Van Gennep started talking about an idea called "liminal space". Liminal space is taken from the Latin word limen, or "threshold". Before one is caught in this threshold-space, he first must be separated from something and once his time in liminal space is completed, he must be reaggregated back into that from which he was separated. This idea was taken and expounded upon by Dr. Victor Turner in regards to society and religion. This may especially be seen for me in the Christian rite of baptism.
In baptism, the person is set apart from the Church—set before the Church—and placed between heaven and earth and everything in between. In this separated state, in the Mennonite Brethren tradition, the person is asked several questions. "Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?" "Do you believe He died for your sins and rose again on the third day?" And a third question, I suspect, but it has escaped me. And before the Church, heaven, earth, and everything in between, the person declares what said person believes. Then, the person doing the baptising—usually a pastor—says, "I baptise you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Then the person is dunked backwards into the water and brought up again, resembling being buried and raised in water. Then the person leaves the baptism tank with the pastor and goes to the bathroom to change into dry clothes and rejoin the congregation and the Church.
I was baptised on September 17th, 2005, Saturday night. I grew up in a Christian home and believed firmly the Christian beliefs. However, I did not feel ready to be baptised until then. It was not my time yet. Normally at my church we have to fill out a form before being baptised and attend a class. Questions on this form are of the identificatory variety: name, address, birthday, marital status, et cetera. There are fill-in-the-blank questions about "who has helped you in your walk with Christ" and who you would like to baptise you and what service. They provide you with a long answer page on which you may write your testimony. (The standard testimony tells about a person's life before becoming a Christian, how this person met Christ, and how being a Christian has made a positive difference.) Following that are the short answer questions about personal interests, assurance of salvation (do you have it?), devotional life (how do you keep your Christian life new and exciting?), how you plan to keep growing as a Christian, what are obstacles you will need to deal with in order to mature in your faith, and do you have a group to support you in your Christian walk?
I hate red tape. My immediate reaction to the form was, "What were the photocopying charges and how many pencils did Saint Peter have at Pentecost?" Sometime earlier in the year, probably near May, I began feeling that I ought to be baptised. The time was drawing near that it would be right. I picked up a form from church. I took it home and looked at it and filled out the easiest stuff. Then it sat on my table for a night. I looked at it again. Let it sit another day. Then another. It got ignored and eventually put somewhere, lost, and forgotten. After a while I went back to church and picked up another form. I called about when baptism class would be happening. I tried to fill out the form. It then sat on my desk, the class was at a bad time, and the form ended up lost and forgotten. It drew on through the summer. As September rolled around I could feel the draw to baptism drawing even stronger. I finally decided that this time I would bite the bullet and get through the form. So I called up the church and left a message on their machine. Later, while I was out, they called back and said I was to be at the church at five o'clock, Saturday evening to meet with Pastor Joel, our senior pastor. It struck me as odd that it would be fifteen minutes before the service, but I shrugged my shoulders and carried on. Five o'clock on Saturday rolls around and I was in the prayer room at the church waiting for Pastor Joel. He comes in and says to me, "So, you're going to be baptised today." Insert a semi-surprised look right about here. We talked for a few minutes, went through the procedure, he asked me what baptism means to me, and we went to get ready.
We met at the stairs at the back of the sanctuary so we could climb up to the baptismal tank and from there waited for the music to stop. The water was warm, thankfully, and when it was time, he went in first and I followed. Theatre style lighting is a wonderful thing. It means that you can hardly see the hundreds of faces looking up at you, so you do not need to be nervous because there is no one there. It started as normal. Pastor Joel said who I was and a little about me. Then he turned to me and asked me to say what baptism means to me. Now it is common to relate a brief testimony before being baptised. Usually all that people say is when they became a Christian and why they wish to be baptised. That takes a grand total of half a minute to a minute, generally. And when there are a number of people being baptised, as per normal, not a whole lot of time can be spent per person. However, contrary to what is normal, I was the only person being baptised that night. So I started talking. I grabbed at images of battle lines and phoenixes being reborn from their ashes. In all, I think I spoke for five minutes or so because I kept picking up the feeling that I was expected to continue. After the eternal five minutes, Pastor Joel asked me the questions and I was baptised. I walked down the steps at the other side, passing through the body of water and emerging on the far shore, and dried off. Afterwards I returned to the service.
Normally people do not remember any given baptism for longer than the service. Over the next few days, then weeks, and even eight months later, however, people came up to me and commented on my baptism and how it stood out to them. Things like this lead me to suspect that just because I think something is my special occasion, my point of learning, it might not be just for me.
ii. Thus Saith the Lord
I am friends with a girl named Marie and have been for several years now. I first met her at the end of 2003. She is Roman Catholic and the first good example of one I had ever met. My uncle is nominally Catholic, but that is the extent of it. This led to a general understanding, as I grew up, that Catholics could be Christians, but true Christian Catholics were few and far between. You know, Catholics like Mother Teresa were probably Christians. It did not help that I grew up in a city where nearly everyone is either Mennonite or Christian Reformed and Catholics were basically a non-issue. Throughout these past few years Marie and myself had discussed religion and my general acceptance of Catholics had extended somewhat by knowing at least one whose faith I could accept as validly Christian, and by extension I knew that there must be more Catholics like her. And because I knew little to nothing about what Catholics believed, aside from infant baptism and a lot of rituals, this made her my primary source of information on what Catholics actually believe.
In the time after I was baptised I began to desire to properly and fully reconcile Catholicism with my understanding of Christianity. I wanted to know exactly what the differences are, why they are different, and does it matter. Because baptism had been on my mind recently, that seemed like a good place to start. I went to a CRC (Christian Reformed Church) school and therefore have grown up with infant baptism being a common enough thing. At times I had asked teachers and students exactly why they believed in infant baptism and had been greeted with the answer that it is the new circumcision. To which I smiled, nodded, and carried on. It was an entirely unsatisfactory answer as I knew that nowhere in the Bible does it say, "And like the circumcision set down by Moses, baptise your young in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." So we began discussing why infant baptism has any value and why it might even be considered preferable. Instead of saying it is like circumcision, I learned that it was about grace and I began to reconcile it with what it meant to be a Christian and in the end it made rather a lot of sense.
Right about here, God informed me that I was going to become a Catholic. I was somewhat bewildered and concerned by this. However, what is the point of arguing with the Almighty? So I took this bit of information and went forward to grasp the concept of the Eucharist.
This was near the end of November and Marie was making plans to come for a visit. We were discussing things we could do out here and I remembered that we have an Abbey near here. Westminster Abbey is one of three abbeys in Canada and every one of the Japanese and Korean students that have stayed with me and my family has been there and I had never been once. However, I wanted an opportunity to see what it was like to go to Mass (I had been once before when I went to visit her, but it was a bit whirl-wind as she was a Eucharistic minister so nobody was there to walk me through it) and she wanted to go to Mass and neither of us had been to an abbey before. So I mentioned to her that we have this Benedictine Abbey and would she like to go up there. Her response was a resounding yes. God told me that when she came, I would learn something important at the Eucharist when I went with her to Mass.
Patience is not the strongest of my virtues. I wanted to go up to the Abbey as soon as I could so I could discover this undefined something about the Eucharist. But God would not let me. Instead He told me that after I went to Mass at the Abbey, I would continue to do so every week. During this time Marie and I kept discussing Catholicism and I kept learning. Finally she came to visit at the end of February. That morning I woke up with a lot of pain in my gut. I have no idea what it was or why; all I knew is that I wanted to double up and disappear. However, I had promised Marie we would go and pain or no pain, I would keep that promise. So we got into the car without me mentioning any pain and drove the half-hour to Mission and up to the Abbey. We got in to the sanctuary and I attempted to follow along with what she was doing. We then took our seats and waited for the Mass to begin. Most of the Mass I was distracted by being in pain, especially the standing bits, and at the end people were standing up to take the Eucharist. I had been told previously that I could cross my arms and accept the blessing from the priest, but I was in enough pain to want to just sit. I was reminded, though, that I would learn something and it seemed like the Mass was nearly over and I could endure this bit of standing. I went forward with my arms crossed so the priest would know that I would not be receiving. When I got to the front of the line I saw a tiny, ancient, hunched-over priest. It bears mentioning that I have been to Protestant revival-type conferences where I have seen the Holy Spirit moving and have felt the power there. And in all of them, I was rarely affected. There would be people falling all around me, moving music, powerful speakers and I would sit there or stand and enjoy it, largely (or entirely) alone in this way. However, when this little priest touched my forehead and murmured some indistinguishable words, the pain left me entirely. I returned to my seat and the pain returned only faintly for a very short bit before vanishing altogether. It stood out to me that I had just experienced a miracle, not in a powerful, Spirit-moving kind of way, but in a setting filled with incense, Gregorian chant, and a tiny, ancient priest.
The next morning, Marie flew home and the following Sunday I returned to Mass at the Abbey, to my parents' surprise and probable discomfort. They did not understand why I should want to go on my own, but they let me. This was the beginning of the stretching of my family.
The Wednesday after the first time I went to Mass alone was Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. For several years previous, I had been observing Lent just because it was a good thing. I, to the bewilderment of my family, made it to morning Mass at six o'clock at the Abbey. Now typically I know exactly what I will be doing for Lent before it rolls around. Generally something just falls on me and I do it. This year I was going to do the same and had discussed with Marie as to what I might do. She also had not decided and after some prayer, we felt that God would direct us together and tell her what we were supposed to do for Lent. Ash Wednesday rolled around and we still did not know what God would ask of us. In the evening we had a chance to talk and after evening Mass she had been filled with the urge to cover her head and felt that this is what God was calling us to do.
Now the first thing that people tend to think is, "Is that all? Wear a hat?" And it is true that it is a fairly simple item. But wearing one for forty days excluding showers, Sundays, and sleep is a bit of a task.
During this time I felt that it would be good to meet with a priest to try and sort things out for myself. One Sunday, after Mass, I managed to snag a priest and ask him whom I could talk with. He told me to talk with the Guest Master. So I went home and phoned to make an appointment to meet with the Guest Master. Around a week later I went up to the Abbey again and met with him and we had a general talk and got to know him a bit. Not a whole lot was achieved in my personal understanding of Catholicism, but it felt good to talk with someone other than just Marie and it gave me personal contact with the people at the Abbey. It was shortly after this that I felt I ought to learn how Mary fits into Catholicism, however God told me that I could not learn anything more from Marie at this time and that I should not meet with anyone until after the season of Lent.
According to several people, the Easter Vigil at any Catholic church is a beautiful thing. So I decided that, instead of going on Sunday morning, I would go Saturday night. It was indeed gorgeous at the Abbey. I adored seeing all the candles and the procession and everything. There were no baptisms or confirmations because they do not do those at the monastery (although at normal parishes, the Easter Vigil is when they usually do these), however it was lovely all the same.
Afterwards, I went to the Guest House with the hopes of meeting someone, anyone, and visiting. I had been feeling rather alone in attending Mass, much like the church I had attended for years, and I wanted to be a part of the community. There were people milling about and I saw a seminarian standing there, so I said to him one of the most neutral greetings for that day, "Christ is risen!" To which he replied, "Amen!" to my brief amusement and bewilderment at not hearing, "He is risen indeed!" We spoke a few minutes and he told me his name is Daniel. He invited me to the high school students' dining hall where a reception was being held. We got there and all the food had gone, but a group of the older seminarians (university level) were going to Boston Pizza and I was invited along. We ended up staying there until nearly two in the morning. I left that night feeling like I had entered the community in a small way.
iii. What Happened After
With Lent over I decided to e-mail the Guest Master and see if he could help me to arrange a meeting with someone to discuss Mariology. There were several items I needed to understand about Mary as they were contrary to what I had learned growing up (her immaculate conception, her remaining a virgin, and the Assumption). Also, according to Marie, the rosary had something to do with Mary and I was curious how that fit in with everything.
Part of how I come to believe something is I first must be convinced factually that something is possible and the I must see how it applies and why I should care whether or not it is factual. If something can be explained and shown to me to likely be the case, I need to know what difference that makes in order to accept it as important in my beliefs.
My first meeting with Father Placidus went very well. We discussed the plausibility of these three beliefs and in a factual sense I could accept the first two without too much difficulty. The trouble came with the Assumption. The strongest factual evidence for it is that no city lays claim to Mary's remains, despite the running trend of claiming the bones of any saints a city can. While this does count for something, it did not count for very much to me. Father Placidus then gave me an image to consider. "Have you ever seen a fishing ruler," he asked me. "One of those ones where the first three inches are the same, but by the end of the twelve inch ruler it has thirty inches marked on it?" I replied that I had. "Well," he said, "When you place that ruler next to an accurate one, you will see that they can only match up so far. If one person believes their ruler is accurate and the other believes their ruler is accurate, there is no way of knowing what is real. However, one of them has to be right. It is all a question of whom do you believe. Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit can work through people and teach them and if you believe that the Pope has been taught that Mary was assumed into heaven. We believe our ruler is the accurate one and that the fishing ruler is the one that says she wasn't." I found this made sense to me and as I already knew that the Pope could not just decide something like that and make it official on a whim, I found I had to accept it.
The next week, we met again and this time discussed the practicality of these beliefs about Mary. This was useful; however God had told me I would not fully understand until I prayed the rosary. Father Placidus explained the rosary to me and its role as a method of devotion, and then he lent me one of his along with a brochure with the prayers and mysteries and explaining the order and such, in case I forgot.
That evening I decided to give this thing a try. And the next night. And the next. For several weeks I prayed it every night, according to the direction God gave me. And He was right. Before long it began to make sense. Not a factual kind of sense, but an understanding of Mary and her role in my life.
iv. A Picnic and What Followed
Around a fortnight after my second meeting with Father Placidus, I was up at the Abbey again for Mass on Sunday. After Mass I saw Daniel. As the school had let out for summer a few weeks earlier, I had not seen him for a while, so I went to say hi. He and a group of friends had come up that day from New Westminster to have a picnic and I was invited along. First, Daniel snagged one of the priests and asked if we could have a tour of the bell tower. It was really neat being able to climb up and the view was spectacular. Afterwards, we sat beneath a large spreading tree and had our picnic.
Part way through, a fellow who used to be a youth leader for the college-aged group at my church showed up. He had become a Catholic a few years back, although I had not heard of it, being less than deeply involved in the youth groups at church. When I told him who I was and my situation, I asked him about why he chose to become Catholic and he said that it was the Eucharist that grabbed his heart. He also said that I ought to talk to the senior pastor and tell him my intentions of becoming Catholic. Apparently when he left it was kept very quiet and he wished he had been clearer about his decision.
I told him that I planned to speak with Pastor Joel. At this time, he had retired from his position as senior pastor. But, as he baptised me and we had no senior pastor yet, he still represented the church leader to me—more importantly, the Protestant Church leader.
After this I e-mailed the church to find out how I could reach Pastor Joel. They forwarded my e-mail to him and he replied to me and we agreed to meet at a Tim Horton's one Saturday morning. He took it very well. He asked me how I stood on issues such as Mary (I emphasised that I do not believe she is divine) and why I was deciding to become Catholic. We talked on the abomination of denominations and how they divide the Church. In the end he gave me his blessing and we prayed. It felt right to have this sort of parting and that it was not really a division.
v. A Summit
There is a group entitled Catholic Christian Outreach. The former youth-leader at my church now works for them and is a major organiser in this area. The third Saturday of every month they put on an event called "Summit". At this event they spend time in prayer and song and Eucharistic adoration. Afterwards the church provides food and drink for the people who came.
It is summer, by this point, and while I have an academic understanding and belief in the Eucharist as the actual Body and Blood of Christ, my heart is unwilling to be fully convinced. And not for lack of trying. I prayed about this and God told me that it would be made clear after I spent some time in Eucharistic adoration and that I ought to go to the Summit gathering. The day of the Summit, Corpus Christi, I was at an SCA event that was being held a half-hour east of where I live. I drove there in the morning and then drove to an hour west of where I live, only to drive the hour back that night. However, after the driving, I was exhausted when I got to the church and a bit anxious as I did not know anyone there (my circle of Catholic friends is notably small). More people began to arrive and eventually it began. After a welcome, a small praise team started and we spent the next hour in Eucharistic adoration. Somehow, by the end of the night, my heart was largely convinced (at the time I thought convinced, although later I was to find that I still have so much further to go in my understanding) and I was able to believe with both my mind and my heart.
At the end of the period of Eucharistic adoration, we were told that there were several priests who would offer the sacrament of Reconciliation for those who would like it. Inside of me I felt a call that I should participate in this. Having been to youth events, albeit usually more lively than this, I was wary because very often people feel impassioned and think they are being led by the Spirit when really they are being driven by a crowd mentality and what is called a "Spiritual high". (I am not saying that this is true of everyone in every instance, but it is common enough, or perhaps it is just my weakness of character.) I do not feel right when I do things because of feelings like that because I question whether they are from myself or from God and if they are from myself, I do not feel I should do them. Not in those circumstances where I am claiming it is God, anyway. So I remained in the pew and prayed, trying to discern whence this voice, this calling was coming. The quiet persistence that it was of the Spirit did not leave me. Finally I decided to get into the line with the other people. There were around a half dozen people before me and each person took a little while, so I kept praying, realising that God had plenty of time to give me a warning feeling so I could get out of line and avoid doing something He did not want me to do. Further, I did not even know if I was even [i allowed[/i] to take Confession as I was not a Catholic. However, God kept me in that line and kept reassuring me in prayer. Finally it was my turn. I stood up, kneeled as I passed the Eucharist, and sat next to the priest. I explained to him that I had never been to Confession before, that I was not Catholic, that I was a baptised Protestant and in which tradition, and that I did not even know if I was allowed to be there or not. He was very kind about it and walked me through it. I did my best to confess everything I could remember, all my flaws, my deepest and darkest sins, my frequent and daily sins, everything. And at the end, when he absolved me of my sins in God's name, I could feel a change sweep through me. Despite having asked forgiveness long since and knowing that I had been forgiven for many of these things, the deep sense of grace I felt at those words allowed me to forgive myself in a way I had not realised I needed.
In a later discussion with Father Placidus, I found out that I was not supposed to receive that sacrament yet as it is restricted to Catholics, much like the Eucharist is. However he did not condemn me, and I am not convinced that it was not God leading me to it. And no matter what, I know that there was a deep power of grace in it and it was an experience I doubt I will ever forget.
vi. 525,600 Minutes
It is here that I resume writing after a long break. I moved to Toronto in autumn of 2006 and things began to move quickly and unexpectedly. This point begins the era of submission, or rather, learning to submit. Perhaps, I now suspect, this should be divided into two parts: my de-Protestantisation and my Catholicisation. When I got to Toronto, I hoped to finish this cycle and complete the circle that had been made, preferably on 17th September, which was a Sunday that year, to make the trip exactly a year long. I mentioned this to the head priest of the parish I attending after Mass early on and he pointed me to the director of the RCIA who was in the Newman Centre, which was right next to the church, and having a meeting for people interested in joining the RCIA. It was not a meeting so much as handing out a sheet of paper and answering any basic questions regarding the process itself, when it began, etc. I waited off to the side and until last, watching and feeling somewhat unsure. My first impressions of her were less than charitable. All I saw was a lady who looked rather odd and very spacey. She said her name was Sister Mary-Clarence, gave me a sheet, and encouraged me to come to the meeting next Sunday several hours before the evening Mass. And then our brief meeting ended and I left feeling a tad discouraged. RCIA is a long commitment. I had already been waiting a long while, I felt. But what could I do? The people at Newman were not going to let me go through things faster, even though I already knew that I was going to go through with this and become Catholic. So I did the only thing I could do. I went to the meeting and kept going.
I found out recently Sister Mary-Clarence's first impressions of me. I was, as she said, like a bull rushing in, and she thought There's no way he's going to make it! She was shocked when eventually I just suddenly stopped resisting and fell into place. I suppose that goes to show how little we knew of each other. I failed to see the years of all sorts of experience she has from travelling all over, and she did not know that I was not going to give up after being dragged through a year of having my beliefs reworked and reconsidered. You do not just give up after something like that because things are not going as smoothly as you would like.
It took several weeks of meetings, I suspect, before I finally accepted what God was doing. He was teaching a virtue that I rather dislike: Patience. Or rather, that is what it seemed, and that was good enough for me. Once I accepted that I was just going to have to learn to be patient because He was not going to let things go any faster, it was easier to drop into the flow of things.
vii. Rite of Acceptance
On the feast of Christ the King, I took the Rite of Acceptance to be a candidate for Confirmation and full communion with the Catholic Church. There were six of us, four to become catechumens and two to become candidates. A little while earlier I had to choose a sponsor who would walk with me on this journey. So I asked a girl who was on the RCIA team named Sari. She was a nice girl, but unfortunately she was very busy which meant that I did not get to talk with her loads. Because of this we were not certain who would present me for the rite at first. Marie had been there with me a lot more and Sari had been far more swamped with schoolwork than she had expected. However, at last second Marie had to go to a funeral and could not be there, so Sari presented me. After the Gospel reading the priest performed the rite and we left Mass partway through to discuss further. Almost everyone agreed that they felt welcome, more involved, closer to the Church. Instead, I felt separated, cut off.
From here there is both more and less to tell. RCIA became a part of my regular life. Every Sunday I would arrive at the Newman Centre around 4 o'clock and we would have our meeting for two or so hours. Then at 7 o'clock I would go to Mass with Marie, and leave part way through with the others in our group. This only changed when there were various rites we had to attend which were at different times for various reasons. Throughout this Sari had more time and it was good to have her there and she did her best to be involved as she could be. At the end I was endlessly glad to have both her and Marie with me and helping me to walk forward.
I expect that, in order to provide some better content to this area I shall tell you my reflections on Holy Week.
i. Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday – or, rather, Passion Sunday, as this lot is apt to call it (weirdos!) – stood out to me particularly, this year. At the beginning was the blessing of the palms in the Newman Centre, then we processed out to the church building, and then the readings began. The first was from Isaiah (nothing unusual), the second was from Philippians (also, nothing unusual), and the third was from the Gospel of Luke. While I am used to the third reading being from the gospels, I did not expect it to be a narrative of the crucifixion. I thought that only happened on Good Friday.
Celebrating this day has always stood out to me, because in the back of my mind I am always aware that in a week, the same people praising God at the Triumphant Entry with the palms will be screaming for Pilate to crucify Jesus. But when we processed out singing "hosanna to God" with the palms only to be met with the Passion narrative, it was like being in a car accident where you see it coming but you know you cannot stop. Very soon the palms we are holding remind me more and more of the way we betrayed Him and they lose all of their joyousness. It was a very painful thing to listen to, all the while holding the palms which welcomed Him in so gladly. Afterwards many of us folded our palms into crosses. I find a certain comfort in this. While they are still the same palms that welcomed Jesus in, they reflect why He came and remind me of His grace. There is a certain grace in pain and sacrifice and the joyful palms fashioned into crosses remind me of this. As much as they may now resemble that upon which Jesus died, they retain the joy of when they were the palms welcoming Him into Jerusalem.
ii. Holy Thursday
This was a difficult day. Frequently throughout the day I felt under a strong oppressive attack, either with images racing through my mind unbidden, or with emotional reactions that made no sense and often appeared from nowhere over the smallest things. The Mass that evening was very good, though, despite these struggles, and I stayed at the vigil with the Eucharist after, praying with Jesus in the garden until midnight. This was a very good experience and I found that this was the moment, if any, that pulled me out of time and because of it I have been walking the shores of ancient memory since.
iii. Good Friday
Good Friday. What to say about Good Friday? It was... silent. Jarring. The service was long and powerful and I left in a daze, well aware of my saviour's death. Tomorrow, the Easter Vigil, is altogether intimidating. I got an e-mail from Father Placidus in reply to one I wrote him just earlier saying to pray: "JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU. Just pray it over and over, but always IN PEACE. And go ahead." So this is what I shall be doing.
Jesus walked out on the water Said, "Take courage, it is me" Peter trusted and he wanted to go farther So he stepped out on the sea
If I keep my eyes on Jesus, I can walk on water If I keep my eyes on Jesus, I can walk on water
~Walk on Water, Audio Adrenaline
Tomorrow, I walk on water.
iv. Holy Saturday or, Liminality Again
And then came the Easter Vigil. And I was shaking with terror. Marie had given me a prayer shawl as a gift so I was wearing it that evening, which helped to fend off the cold some when we were watching the Paschal candle being lit from a large fire, outside. After that we all processed in slowly with tapers in hand, lighting them as we entered the church. The entire church, save for the choir stalls, was lit by candle-light. Then we extinguished them. The first ten readings which were from the Old Testament were read with all of our candles out and there were a few candles by the lectors so that they could see what they were reading. Aside from that, it was dark. Then they sang the Gloria. Oh, what a Gloria. The lights came on, banners of linen unfurled from the ceiling all around the church, other banners were hoisted up on poles and on ropes, the congregation all rang bells, and there was general enthusiasm and joy. Then there was a reading from Romans which was followed by a rousing Alleluia and then a reading from Luke. And after that began the Sacraments.
First, our five Elect were baptised. It was odd for me to see it done with water being scooped and poured over their heads instead of full immersion. After that it was time for the two Candidates to stand up. That is, myself and one other. We stepped forward and we were asked to profess our faith. And in one simple sentence – one that I've waited over a year to say – I became a Roman Catholic. Thankfully I had my two sponsors to stand behind me and push me forward (somewhat literally), and I was and am ever so grateful for it.
Sari and Marie told me that I was through, but I shook my head. There were two hurdles to go through yet. The next was Confirmation. This went well, Sister Mary-Clarence gave me a small olive wood cross, and I was relieved to have one more part done.
As I sat down and was waiting for the part where I would go up and help to dress the alter (I got to carry a candle!) and soon after take the Eucharist, a song by Keith Green came into my head:
Oh, what can be done with an old heart like mine? Soften it up with oil and wine, The oil is You, Your Spirit of love, Please wash me anew in the wine of Your Blood
That was probably one of the most comforting and reassuring things that I was following God's will that could have happened. Well, short of a choir of angels showing up before the entire congregation and performing a concert, followed by a large solo section epically describing how God will be greatly glorified through my obedience on this matter. But what I got was sufficient and I was and am grateful for it.
I think that one of the easiest moments, but also the most intimidating, was when the priest came and gave me the Body of Christ. There was no sense of my eyes being opened at the breaking of the bread, but something still knew it to be true somewhere inside of me and there was a moment of deep contemplation while I was holding the Eucharist and the priest proclaimed that this IS the Body of Christ. And I was holding it in my hand. And then the Blood came around. Much to my relief, I neither forgot to affirm it with an amen, nor did I drop the cup. Both of which I was a little nervous about. And then I went back to my place in the pews to contemplate what had just happened while the rest of the church received communion.
I think that Marie is right and I will not understand the Eucharist so easily. But instead that I will grow to love and understand it as I take it every day and every Sunday.
I have just a few more words to say before this page is signed and sealed. Afterwards there was a reception in the centre, and a lady approached me. She congratulated me and asked me for my story, so I gave her the abbreviated version (obviously, this was not the version I told her ). She then said that she was impressed with how pure a soul I have and that every time she sees me that is what she sees. I... really do not feel like I have a pure soul. Not in the least. I know many of my flaws all too well, and I expect that I don't see many more flaws which I have (yes, priests have told me in Confession that I ought to be a little easier on myself, but some things are just plain hard to change). But I also believe in other people having the gift of seeing things inside of other people and as much as I don't understand, it is not my place to argue. Instead, I just have to have faith that what she said is true and to continue to try to live up to it as well as I can. And the fact that someone else sees it in me brings me great comfort and confidence to carry on.
The second item is more a moment of pleasure and glee. I saw most of the other people with gift bags and other such fun things. I was a tad disappointed at first not to have one, and then I remembered that the prayer shawl I was wearing was such a gift and I was consoled and happy. But then Sari pulled me aside and handed me a lovely card (it was actually a wedding card initially, but she took it apart and it became a wonderful Confirmation and First Communion card with a single dove on it for the Holy Spirit). She also gave me a Novena to the Holy Spirit (a devotional booklet), a pewter cross with several images of saints and of Jesus and the Holy Spirit on it, a wooden rosary with a Benedictine crucifix on it (remember the abbey?), and, to our amusement, a laminated First Communion card like what may be given to a little boy on the occasion. It was really wonderful. Also, the one guest who was there for me, a very good friend of Marie's who has also become a friend of mine gave me a card, to my surprise. It was generally card-ful and wonderful and I felt very loved. It was very nice to see that while it was important and special for me (all anxiety aside), it was also very important and special for them, as well.
v. In Conclusion
At the end of the day, I do not really feel any different. I expect it will take going to Mass for a week or two or two hundred before I really adjust. I expect and hope that I will retain a good measure of my Protestant accent – especially the bits that let me approach things from a different angle than most cradle Catholics.
quote:Originally posted by ReikoDemosthenes: Aside from that, it was dark. Then they sang the Gloria. Oh, what a Gloria. The lights came on, banners of linen unfurled from the ceiling all around the church, other banners were hoisted up on poles and on ropes, the congregation all rang bells, and there was general enthusiasm and joy.
Thank you for sharing with us your liminal year. Alleluia.
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I thought I might bump this at least once more, in the hopes that people will not be too intimidated by its length. Or at the very least that Papa might see it and know to archive it when he does that sort of thing.
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