The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ tends to be viewed in a predominantly positive light. Seriously, what’s not to love? It’s the story of the spotless Lamb of God, unjustly condemned, abandoned by His friends, tormented, mocked, tortured and executed with common criminals, hastily entombed because of the approaching Sabbath, with the incredible plot twist of the defeat of sin and death when He rises on the third day! Who saw that coming? The story of the Resurrection is the ultimate saga of the triumph of Good over Evil; it is the mother of all feel-good narratives. God wins!! But in our excitement over this happily-ever-after we forget that, for certain people, the Resurrection of the Man they crucified would, of course, have looked an awful lot like their worst nightmare….

 

First of all, there were the people who crucified Him. Imagine yourself as a Pharisee standing at the foot of the Cross, mocking this dying Man with the words, “He saved others – let him save himself!” Or say you were just a face in the crowd outside Pilate’s residence, one of those who rejected the offer to set Jesus free in favor of the release of an insurrectionist. Or you could have been one of those soldiers who bent your knee before Him only to mock Him, just to make His impending death that much less bearable. Then of course there were those who let Him be crucified. It’s true that they certainly didn’t will it or work towards it, but when He could have used a friend or two, those people evaporated like the dew before the desert sun – people He should have been able to count on, people who had literally promised Him, “Lord, I would never betray You.”

 

If this had been scripted in Hollywood, what happened next would have followed a very predictable narrative. Movies have made popular lines such as “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you,” and “I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” King Herod was familiar with that plotline; years earlier when he had heard about Jesus and His popularity with the crowds, his guilty conscience whispered to him in the night, warning him that surely this man was John the Baptist (whom he had killed) risen from the dead to have revenge upon him (Mt 14:1-2). It’s the way of the world: mess with me, and I will do everything in my power to make you wish you had never been born. We can only imagine what it must have been like to sit cowering in the Upper Room when Jesus, the Crucified One, walked – quite literally – through the door.

 

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst….

 

Yet the astonishing plot just keeps getting better, for the One Who had been abandoned, betrayed, tortured and killed had not been resurrected for the sake of revenge. His first words to His apostles are a dead giveaway: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19-23).

 

This is forgiveness, and this is to be the new order. This forgiveness that Jesus offers His friends is so important, so necessary, that it is the first thing of which He assures them. He then commissions these forgiven ones to assure that His forgiveness reaches all mankind:

 

“Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

 

Mercy is that central to Jesus’ being; reconciliation is that crucial. Out of love for us, He gave His representatives the authority to forgive sins in His name, and He did it right out of the gate. Let the importance of that not be lost on us next time we are tempted to put off confession. Divine Mercy is the most original plot twist of all time.

 

 

On Monday within the Octave of Easter

 

Deo omnis gloria!

According to St. Faustina, the Polish nun who received the revelation of the Divine Mercy, Jesus told her, “The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered.

 

So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank whoever it was that obtained for me the grace of conversion. Twelve years ago I was an Evangelical Protestant with no interest whatsoever in the Catholic Church. I was nudged into checking out the Catholic belief system simply because I couldn’t answer a 6th-grader’s questions about Catholicism to my satisfaction. When I investigated the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, the suddenness of my conversion rivaled that of spontaneous combustion; I read through John 6 just to see where the Catholic Church had gone wrong, and kaboom!! – my doctrinal system exploded. My only explanation for this is that someone, somewhere, had prayed for the conversion of poor sinners, and the grace that they obtained trickled down to me.

 

This time of year as I prepare to celebrate the anniversary of my reconciliation with the Church, I always find myself thinking about this. So – thank you, whoever you are, for praying for me, even if you didn’t know me, even if you’ve never met me. I hope to thank you in person someday. Till then, I will be praying for you.

 

On Holy Thursday

 

Deo omnis gloria!

Looking ahead to Divine Mercy Sunday, when Pope John Paul II will be canonized, I have a wonderful example of Divine Mercy in action – in the conversion story of

Ryan McLaughlin, a former Calvinist:

 

My church was Reformed and vehemently so. We had a lot to say about what was wrong with other Christians: Dispensationalists, Arminians, Pentecostals, mega-churches, mainstream Protestants…all sorts of groups were frequent targets of our derision. And of course, we trashed Catholics. “I mean, if those people ever picked up a Bible, they’d figure out how dumb what they believe is, right?” We had debates–and I mean serious debates–about whether the Pope was the Antichrist (not any one Pope in particular, mind you, more just the papacy in general… the alternative Apocalyptic role for the papacy in our hermeneutic was the “whore of Babylon”). In the worldview I shared with my friends, to be Roman was to be ridiculous.

 

And then, in March of 2005, I inexplicably found myself engrossed in the news coverage of Pope John Paul’s final illness and eventual death. …I remember thinking, despite myself, “Maybe this guy was the vicar of Christ…”

 

I realized then that John Paul II had a holiness and a strength that my theology couldn’t account for: in the end, what I had believed about this man and his office was simply bigotry. There was now a gaping hole in the way I thought about the world. And as someone who was planning his life around a particular denomination and a particular theology that were opposed to the Pope in every way, that made me extremely uncomfortable. I began to silently question what I was being taught, as well as the people teaching it….

 

Ryan, the blogger responsible for The Back of the World, has a heavy-duty conversion story. Read it now at Why I’m Catholic!

Last year during Lent I wrote a series of “postcards” from the 4th-century celebration of Holy Week in Jerusalem. Thanks be to God, we have extant writings from two saints of that era – Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, and Egeria, a pilgrim visiting the Holy Land – both sets of which open a window onto the practices of the 4th-century Church. Interestingly, St. Egeria notes that the celebration of the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday as observed in Jerusalem some 350 years after the Resurrection were the same as those celebrated in her native place (France or Spain), lending credence to St. Irenaeus’ seemingly outrageous 2nd-century boast:

 

As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.

 

How different from the Christianity of today! In my town alone, we have Christians who have observed Lent and Christians who haven’t, Christians who are aware that yesterday was Palm Sunday and Christians whose pastor never made mention of the fact, Christians who will attend Maundy Thursday services and Christians who don’t even know what they are, and Christians who will mourn the death of the Savior on Good Friday while other Christians attend a baseball game. One Protestant church I used to attend actually held a fund-raising dinner after the Easter Sunday service (since everybody was there already….) Sadder still are the various doctrines being taught to explain why Jesus had to die to save us from our sins, with some denominations blasphemously implying that God the Father “damned Jesus to hell” or that He “forsook His Son when He died on the Cross.” The hallmark of heresy is its pestilent diversity, while one of the notes of orthodoxy is its constancy, holding to “that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.” It’s been nearly 2,000 years, and Catholics still walk through the events of Holy Week with the Lord, just as they did in Egeria’s time.

 

St. Egeria outlines the Lenten practices of the Church in Jerusalem, as well as the instruction given to the catechumens by the bishop, St. Cyril. She tells us, for example, what a patient, careful teacher the bishop was:

 

And as he [the bishop] explained the meaning of all the Scriptures, so does he explain the meaning of the Creed; each article first literally and then spiritually. By this means all the faithful in these parts follow the Scriptures when they are read in church.

 

Providentially, many of St. Cyril’s writings have survived. Back in those days when becoming Catholic could really cost you, the bishop (who spent his time in and out of exile because of his opposition to the Arian heresy) devoted himself unstintingly to the education of those entering the Church at the Easter Vigil. In his “Prologue to the Catechetical Lectures,” we read his moving address to the catechumens:

 

Already there is an odor of blessedness upon you, O you who are soon to be enlightened: already you are gathering the spiritual flowers, to weave heavenly crowns: already the fragrance of the Holy Spirit has breathed upon you: already you have gathered round the vestibule of the King’s palace ; may you be led in also by the King! For blossoms now have appeared upon the trees; may the fruit also be found perfect! Thus far there has been an inscription of your names, and a call to service, and torches of the bridal train, and a longing for heavenly citizenship, and a good purpose, and hope attendant thereon. For he lies not who said, that to them that love God all things work together for good. God is lavish in beneficence, yet He waits for each man’s genuine will: therefore the Apostle added and said, to them that are called according to a purpose. The honesty of purpose makes you called: for if your body be here but not your mind, it profits you nothing.

 

St. Cyril must have left no doubt in the minds of his listeners how meaningful entrance into the body of Christ would be – an “odor of blessedness” wafts from those who are preparing for baptism! Yet entering the Church is not the be-all and end-all, Cyril hastened to assure them; it is just the beginning. Some excerpts:

 

See, I pray you, how great a dignity Jesus bestows on you. You were called a Catechumen, while the word echoed round you from without; hearing of hope, and knowing it not; hearing mysteries, and not understanding them; hearing Scriptures, and not knowing their depth. The echo is no longer around you, but within you; for the indwelling Spirit henceforth makes your mind a house of God. When you shall have heard what is written concerning the mysteries, then will you understand things which thou knew not. And think not that you receive a small thing: though a miserable man, you receive one of God’s titles. Hear St. Paul saying, God is faithful. Hear another Scripture saying, God is faithful and just. Foreseeing this, the Psalmist, because men are to receive a title of God, spoke thus in the person of God: I said, You are Gods, and are all sons of the Most High. But beware lest thou have the title of faithful, but the will of the faithless. You have entered into a contest, toil on through the race: another such opportunity you cannot have. Were it your wedding day before you, would you not have disregarded all else, and set about the preparation for the feast? And on the eve of consecrating your soul to the heavenly Bridegroom, will you not cease from carnal things, that you may win spiritual?

 

God has called, and His call is to you. Attend closely to the catechisings, and though we should prolong our discourse, let not your mind be wearied out. For you are receiving armor against the adverse power, armor against heresies, against Jews, and Samaritans , and Gentiles. You have many enemies; take to you many darts, for you have many to hurl them at: and you have need to learn how to strike down the Greek, how to contend against heretic, against Jew and Samaritan. And the armor is ready, and most ready the sword of the Spirit : but thou also must stretch forth your right hand with good resolution, that you may war the Lord’s warfare, and overcome adverse powers, and become invincible against every heretical attempt.

 

Even now, I beseech you, lift up the eye of the mind: even now imagine the choirs of Angels, and God the Lord of all there sitting, and His Only-begotten Son sitting with Him on His right hand, and the Spirit present with them; and Thrones and Dominions doing service, and every man of you and every woman receiving salvation. Even now let your ears ring, as it were, with that glorious sound, when over your salvation the angels shall chant, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered : when like stars of the Church you shall enter in, bright in the body and radiant in the soul.

 

Great is the Baptism that lies before you: a ransom to captives; a remission of offenses; a death of sin; a new-birth of the soul; a garment of light; a holy indissoluble seal; a chariot to heaven; the delight of Paradise; a welcome into the kingdom; the gift of adoption!

 

The race is for our soul: our hope is of things eternal: and God, who knows your hearts, and observes who is sincere, and who is a hypocrite, is able both to guard the sincere, and to give faith to the hypocrite: for even to the unbeliever, if only he give his heart, God is able to give faith. So may He blot out the handwriting that is against you , and grant you forgiveness of your former trespasses; may He plant you into His Church, and enlist you in His own service, and put on you the armor of righteousness : may He fill you with the heavenly things of the New Covenant, and give you the seal of the Holy Spirit indelible throughout all ages, in Christ Jesus Our Lord: to whom be the glory for ever and ever!

 

Amen.

 

Pray for those entering the Church this Saturday evening, and for those who will be reconciled to her. The race is for their souls….

 

On Monday of Holy Week

 

Deo omnis gloria!

Mankind has longed debated the pros and cons of immortality. The idea of possibly prolonging one’s period of influence on this earth seems somehow very tempting, and death, well, lacks charm. As we all know, youth is wasted on the young; it would be nice to be granted a do-over, or several, for that matter. Seems like you just get going and the buzzer goes off – time’s up! One of the prizes the explorers of the New World sought was a Fountain of Youth, a way to restore vigor and good health, and to simply grant a body a little more time on this earth. That “youth” part is of course a key detail – the ancient Greeks spun myths concerning creatures like Tithonus, a man granted the gift of immortality. Having neglected to procure eternal youth while he was at it (oops!), Tithonus became, after several hundred years, so wizened and shrunken that he was transformed into a cicada, crying out his wish to be allowed to die. Immortality, the Greeks were trying to tell us, can be a real mixed blessing….

 

The Christian belief system affirms this, for as we know, no one created by God will ever cease to exist. Not only will you and I exist forever, but our names will live forever as well. Take Pontius Pilate, for example: dead for 2,000 years, but his name will be mentioned more than once in the coming Holy Week. The name of Pontius Pilate will live forever; it crosses the lips of millions of people every single day as they recite the Creed:

 

He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, died and was buried.

Of course, that’s not the kind of thing you would want your name to be associated with. Yet that is exactly the kind of thing the distressing number of human beings will be remembered for. Immortality is a reality – our souls will never die. At the Second Coming, our bodies will be reunited with those souls, either to eternal Life or to eternal death in Hell. One way or another, we will exist forever, and we will be remembered for our deeds.

 

What will you be remembered for? Trust me, it won’t be for your witty repartee or your devastating good looks. Whatever it is that you are remembered for, it will be in association with your relationship to Jesus Christ, as demonstrated by the above quote from the Creed: “HE WAS CRUCIFIED under Pontius Pilate.” Compare/contrast that with the billing given to the followers of the Lord in Luke 8:1-3:

 

[Jesus] went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

 

Herod’s steward, Chuza, no doubt, was a man of influence in his day, a man who had made a name for himself, but 50 years after his death I doubt anyone knew he had ever lived. His wife Joanna, though, was immortalized in Scripture due to her relationship with the Savior. Jesus went about preaching and bringing the Good News of the Kingdom, and Joanna helped provide for Him. “The Twelve were with Him” – not a bad way to be remembered, either. A blessed number of us will be remembered simply like this:

 

For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.

 

That’s the goal. That’s what all of this Lenten practice has been leading up to. “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.” Better than celebrity, better than good health, better than youth and opportunity, I might add. How will you be remembered?

 

It’s going to matter for a long, long time.

 

 

On the memorial of St. Erkembode de Thérouanne

Deo omnis gloria!

Hard to believe, but your long, hard Lenten slog is nearly at an end! Palm Sunday is fast approaching, and Lent will give way to the Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. So, how’ve those Lenten resolutions been working for you? Thirty-some days ago I rashly vowed to give up complaining for Lent. No bellyaching, no derogatory remarks, no eye-rolling – that was the plan. How’d it turn out? Well, I’ve stopped personifying the quote “If I were to give up sarcasm, that would leave interpretive dance as my only means of communication,” but it has become clear to me that this project is far bigger than a mere 40-day Lenten endeavor. Facing my complaining head-on has forced me to reckon with the similarities between my life and that of one of the characters depicted in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. The condensed version of the story is that a saint in Heaven greets her husband who has come to visit. Her husband in this life-after-death is actually a dwarfish figure leading a tall, theatrical ghost, the “Tragedian,” on a chain. While the saint addresses herself to the dwarf, it is the Tragedian who does his talking for him. It becomes clear that this woman’s husband spent his life moaning and complaining, reveling in self-pity, and that now in death he is being progressively consumed by his self-obsession. His wife tries to free him so that he can join her in Heaven, with what Lewis calls “the invitation to all joy, singing out of her whole being like a bird’s song on an April evening, [which] seemed to me such that no creature could resist it.” Yet resist it the little man did, and dwindled away until he disappeared entirely, leaving only the Tragedian, the personification of his complaint, behind. Him the saintly wife ignored; he was but a ghastly caricature of the man she had loved.

 

Ending up a ghastly caricature has never really been my life’s goal. Believe me, I want to change, but I will be working on my complaining problem for the foreseeable future, as it is such a significant part of me. Massive infusions of faith are in order, as that seems to be the deficit that plays host to my chronic carping. You see, if I had the faith to trust in God’s beneficence, nothing “bad” would ever happen to me again – whatever happened, I would trust that it had come from God who loves me, and that it was His will for me at that moment. How can you curse a traffic jam when you know that’s where God wants you to be, and that you will remain there only as long as He wants you to? It is a blessing – you are “providentially jammed.” As things stand now, whenever something unexpected occurs, I simply lack the faith to look up to Heaven and thank God for what He is doing in my life. Turn that around, and the complaining should stop. Pretty simple, but not easy – a good sign, because nothing worth having ever really comes easy. The theme of the third and final Scrutiny last Sunday, if you recall, was “Life!” Jesus did the impossible – He resurrected a man dead for four days. Stuck in my complaining ways for well over forty years, there is still hope for me. Jesus came to give us new life.

 

So, if your Lenten resolution fizzled, learn from that. If what you resolved was worth practicing, resolve to take it up again next Lent, or better yet just take it up again right now. I personally have pinpointed a real flaw in my character, and I hope with God’s help to address it day in and day out as He gives the opportunity. No doubt there will be plenty of opportunities…

 

… like the next time I’m providentially jammed.

 

 

On the memorial of the Martyrs of Croyland

 

Deo omnis gloria!

People come to the Catholic Church by various routes. Some converts have no prior acquaintance with God, and some have been Christians ever since they can remember, or even before that. Some of the Protestant persuasion have experienced a gradual disillusionment with the Reformation tenets of sola fide and sola Scriptura, coming to the reluctant realization that the Bible teaches neither doctrine. For some, conversion is a long, slow process, for others it is accompanied by gut-wrenching, life-changing choices, and for still others conversion comes like a bolt out of the blue. I was a Baptist reading up on Catholicism so that I could explain to myself and others exactly where the Catholic Church went off the tracks. In a process that lasted less than 5 minutes, I realized to my horror that the standard Protestant explanations for Jesus’ “eat My Flesh/drink My Blood” discourse in John 6 amounted to nothing more than a stratagem contrived to allow the offspring of the Reformation to remain respectably estranged from the Church that Jesus Himself established. I looked up from my Bible and said to myself, “I have got to start attending a church that believes in the Real Presence” – probably a new world’s record for Protestant-to-Catholic conversion.

 

It doesn’t matter how it happened – one way or another, you were granted the grace to believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God. You were granted insight into the necessity of an authoritative Church. So, you want to convert to Catholicism?

 

It may be harder than it needs to be….

 

Mind you, I’m not complaining about the long period of initiation that converts undergo. Coming from an Evangelical background, I found that refreshing. The Protestant denominations I was familiar with basically urged folks to throw caution to the winds and make a practically instantaneous “decision for Christ,” lest the moment pass and be lost forever. In our fervor, it never occurred to us that we might in some cases be doing more harm than good in indiscriminately urging everyone to immediate conversion. It was when one member of our RCIA group opted not to continue because he could not in good conscience inscribe his name in the Book of the Elect that I, for the first time in my life, understood what Jesus was talking about in Luke 14:28-32.

 

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

 

No one on the RCIA team twisted the man’s arm or otherwise tried to coerce him as I might have done in a Protestant context, which shocked me at the time, but not now. I trust they prayed for him. It was 11 years ago, and I still pray for him.

 

No, I have nothing against the duration of the preparation that converts are put through. My gripe concerns the isolation converts often experience during that preparation. You’ve probably noticed that the catechumens are “sent forth” after the Liturgy of the Word while the rest of us celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the priest usually dismisses them with words like, “Be assured of our loving support and prayers for you.” Let’s home in on the word “support.” Catholics seem to have gotten the idea in their heads that converts are in some kind of “quarantine” with a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. Who knows what goes on in RCIA? Best just leave those folks to incubate till Easter. After they’ve hatched, we can treat them the way we treat everybody else….

 

Except that some converts may not be there when Easter rolls around…. Many folks, particularly former Evangelicals, are appalled at the lack of fellowship in Catholic parishes – at least, the lack of fellowship that they experience. I know when I went through RCIA we remained pretty much segregated from the parish-at-large. I knew the RCIA team, and I knew my fellow candidates and catechumens. I knew the priest and the parish secretary. That was pretty much it. After 7 months in RCIA, that was a pretty skinny list of Catholics to whom I could turn with any questions or concerns should problems arise.

 

I do believe that there is really only one reason to become Catholic – because the Catholic Church is the church Jesus established, and her doctrine faithfully reflects His teaching. The fact that becoming Catholic put a crimp in my social life didn’t affect my decision to enter the Church one way or the other, but I have heard stories of people who decided that they simply could not persevere in an atmosphere that seemingly offered no social support whatsoever. When you leave a Protestant church where everyone knows you on a first-name basis and worries about you if you don’t show up to the Wednesday night service, and begin attending a Catholic parish where (seemingly) no one knows or cares if you ever come back again, well… it’s hard. In some cases, it may be the straw that breaks the convert’s back.

 

So whose problem is this? Well, actually, it’s yours. As a Catholic you are called upon to make welcome those seeking entrance into the Church. RCIA is fine for many purposes, but absolutely nothing can stand in for Christian charity and hospitality. Blogger Joseph Moore (he of “Yard Sale of the Mind” fame) recently made several practical suggestions for helping converts settle into parish life in what he called the ‘things I could just do’ category. As a convert I feel that any one of these would be grand. Joseph’s ideas are below; my comments are in italics:

 

- A regular Sunday afternoon tea for the RCIA candidates (and anyone else who wants to come), where discussions can be less formal? Also allow the candidates to get to know some people and find someone(s) they feel comfortable talking with. Invite some solid Catholics from the parish. Could do it at my house, for example.

 

(This sounds like the perfect combination to me – anything that might encourage the average parishioner to interact with those seeking to enter the Church would be a real blessing! His point about finding “someone they feel comfortable talking with” is very important. It’s wonderful when converts “click” with their sponsor, but that doesn’t always happen. Converts may have questions or concerns that go unaddressed because they simply don’t know an approachable Catholic willing to lend an ear.)

 

- Monthly pot luck dinners? Same concept, but a bit more work.

 

(We had potluck dinners in RCIA. They were very nice, but the attendees were the RCIA team and the converts. I believe the priest came to one once. A good time was had by all, but participation by other members of the parish would have opened up a whole new world to us.)

 

- Field trips. How about we take everybody over to some other parishes or the seminary or the Dominican School of Philosophy or the local Carmelite Monastery? Meet some Catholics doing their thing, see some faith in action.

 

(I would have loved this – anything to better acquaint myself with Catholic practice. In RCIA I just felt that I was in a box for such an extended period of time, almost like a shut-in.)

 

Joseph’s final suggestion concerned “deschooling RCIA.” Now, as someone who did very well in school, thank you, I have never been personally opposed to being taught in a classroom setting. That said, I couldn’t possibly agree more with this idea. Our RCIA consisted of a weekly lesson on a theological topic, at least at first. It later devolved into a quasi-Protestant “what did the homily mean to you?” session. I realize not everyone is into self-study, but I felt that I could have educated myself on theological topics much more effectively than by sitting through the one-size-fits-all lessons side-by-side with catechumens who had never had any previous Christian education. Although I would have loved watching Fr. Barron’s “Catholicism” as a general introduction, or perhaps the new “Symbolon” series, neither would have addressed my real problem. What I really could have used more of was simply being invited into the lives of faithful Catholics who modeled a relationship with Christ. What I was really in need of was an older Catholic sister in the Lord willing to do what family members do best – walk alongside me, thereby teaching me how to walk by myself. What I needed was a friend or two.

 

And that could be you – you could be the one a convert in your parish is waiting for. It’s not too late to say hi. Introduce yourself. Express an interest. Invite them over. Share your time. Offer them a ride. Tell them you’re praying for them. Let them know you’re there.

 

Be there.

 

 

On the memorial of St. Paul Le-Bao Tinh

 

Deo omnis gloria!

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