If you’ve ever wanted to fully know what the Catholic church is all about, then tonight’s Easter Vigil Mass might be the best place to start. It’s typically a 3+ hour Mass, full of scripture readings, incense, baptisms and confirmations, Holy Eucharist, stunning music, a powerful homily and much more. If you’re joining the church, your months of study culminate this evening as you fully enter the church. It is amazing. But, I only speak of how it must feel to have that experience based on watching others. My entrance into the church was much more low-key.
Nearly two years ago, I did a top ten on my conversion and what led me to Catholicism. Scott and I were engaged on New Year’s Eve my senior year of college and got hitched seven months later. After much soul searching, long conversations with Scott and his parish priest and prayer, I decided to take the leap of faith and join the Catholic church. Our families were both supportive and I felt it was the right thing for our marriage. That was affirmed by many people and it brought me great peace. Because I didn’t go the traditional route of joining RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation) and studying the church teachings in depth, my entrance into the church is different than most.
After meeting with the priest several times, I was received (confirmed) into the church an hour before my rehearsal dinner. I know, right?! It was a small crowd, the parents, the in-laws and a few friends from the wedding party. Scott was my sponsor. There was no bishop with a fancy miter. We did, however, have a rockin’ party the next night at the wedding reception. What can I say? I’m a Sacrament hog – I received Eucharist, Confirmation and Marriage all within 24 hours.
Those first few months after joining the church I was incredibly self-conscious. Surely those people behind me knew I was a new Catholic because I kept slipping up on the Creed. Did I kneel or stand? Scott and I used to recite the prayers on the way to Mass. My first reconciliation I refused to see the priest face-to-face and instead opted for the screen. All for naught though. As soon as I said, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. This is my First Reconciliation.” He warmly welcomed me, “Kathryn, it’s so good to have you here.” I guess my Texas twang gave me away in rural Iowa.
Tomorrow, hundreds of Catholics will likely enter your parish for the first time in a long time. Welcome them home. Perhaps the Easter holiday brings them back, perhaps it’s a family member that brought them along or maybe they recently gave birth to their first child. For some reason, they’ve decided to come back. Mean it when you say, “Peace be with you.” Scoot over and make room for them in the pew. After Mass, tell them you’re glad they came. Maybe tomorrow they’ll rediscover Christ.
Open wide the doors!