We’re just over a week away from a momentous point in my life; an event that will purposefully coincide with the high point of the Christian calendar, Easter. The date has not been picked by me; it was prepared in advance, before I was born. (cf. Psalm 139:16)
Nearly seven months ago, my wife and I first set foot in the Catholic Church near our house. We’d been reading a lot about the Catholic Church, and had already made our intentions known to our close friends and families (though we and the Catholic Church were not yet ‘Facebook official’). We were a little nervous; we’d read a lot, I’d been to a Catholic high school, taken classes on church history and Catholicism, and we’d looked into a lot of beautiful old Catholic churches as tourists, but Catholicism was still a distant world, and not a personal reality.
Our first Mass then, was a little anti-climactic. Everyone else seemed to know what they were doing; we did not. We felt awkward during Communion or the Eucharist, as we knew what we couldn’t do but not what we should do. No one greeted us on our way in or on our way out. But we knew we were in the right place. The homily (a Catholic ‘sermon’ but shorter) was given by a priest who made reference to his former ‘days as an evangelical Protestant…’ and we knew we were on the right track. We just weren’t sure how to proceed.
During the following week I was asked where I was going to church by someone at the school I worked for. I had made sure to disclose the fact that I was becoming Catholic before accepting any teaching job offers. I had lost a job offer from a different ‘Christian’ school this way. When I was hired despite the fact that I plainly stated my intentions, I thought that this school welcomed all Christians. However, now that I was there, my answer led to a series of meetings that made me understand that as a Catholic Christian I had no future at this school and would not be offered a new contract.
Knowing that I would be losing my job made knowing the way forward suddenly more urgent. So we called the Catholic church we attended. We must have seemed oddly impatient. We called later in the evening on the day of one of my meetings at my school. We had to call three times to get a priest, and then I relayed the essentials of our story and our desire to become Catholic and enroll in Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes. Father (‘Father’ is a polite title for a Catholic priest) was very welcoming and interested in our story. We met in person at the church where he asked us details about our story and our lives, gave us some Catholic materials, prayed for us and invited us to class. We began to attend RCIA class as a couple, and this is what we have been doing every Thursday for the past seven months. It has been a wonderful opportunity to learn, pray and grow in faith.
In Catholic tradition, new Catholics are welcomed into the Church as part of the Easter Vigil service. This beautiful tradition has meant a long season of waiting for my wife and I which is now coming to an end. The Easter Vigil service takes place directly before Easter Sunday and is the culmination of our personal study and our classes. There, my wife and I, alongside other adults in need of baptism and/or confirmation in the Catholic Church, will profess our faith as Catholics, be confirmed, and physically receive Jesus for the first time.
We are blessed to have the support of my family, who will attend the Easter Vigil with us. I am thankful to God for my sisters and my parents who, though firmly Protestant, love us and are thankful for who we are and what we share in faith, even if we do not agree in all the particulars. (It is worth noting that most of our non-Catholic Christian friends have taken the exact same stance, and we have been greatly blessed by them as well.)
I intend to use this last week or so before confirmation to reflect firstly on Jesus Christ and His Easter journey and secondly on this far less significant but related personal journey into the Catholic Church, hopefully for my own self-understanding, the aid of others, and of course ad maiorem Dei gloriam (to the greater glory of God.)
Continued in Coming Home (part 2)
Closely related: I am (Becoming) Catholic