It is amazing how much trouble a mantilla will give you when you're in a hurry. I left it to last and was looking up YouTube tutorials and throwing the task to my mom because I was too frustrated with how it didn't look quite right. Of course, she was able to fix it properly and quickly and I was nearly running out the door to get to our RCIA room on time. Once there, I received a name tag (Haley Thérèse!) which would assist Monsignor when he addressed us by either name. I found my sponsor and we began to line up and watched the Easter candle be lit by sacristans who may or may not have been pyromaniacs (just kidding!).
|Quick picture before running out the door. Unfortunately, the only picture I took that night. Whoops.|
We processed into the church in darkness (thankfully I didn't stumble) and Monsignor entered with the candle, stopping at each aisle to light the small candles we held. I don't think I will ever forget the almost magical way the church began to be lit up from the back, slowing making its way to me, as parishioners and visitors spread their light to each other. I really wish I had a picture of it to show here.
Lights were raised and Mass continued with seven Old Testament and one New Testament passage illustrating salvation history from the creation to incarnation. Each reading was punctuated with a psalm and prayer. Whenever it began to feel like it was taking forever, I reminded myself to savor the moments: I would never experience this in the same way again. Each word and passage, note and petition would preclude my admittance into the church, my professing all the Church believes, my participation in Mass which would feel like the first true time (because I would finally be going up for Communion). I listened, spoke and stood with purpose and soon any thoughts about not tripping on my dress or what my family and friends were thinking dissipated (though, I did take my flats off part way through.They were new and uncomfortable and hidden by my dress, so I don't think there's a problem. It actually made me feel a bit more grounded in what was happening. I would advise against it if you have the not so good smelling variety of feet. FYI.).
At the presentation of the Gospel, the lights became brighter and music rumbled over the congregation, filling every corner of the church. It was truly brilliant after the darkness of Lent and the Mass and I imagined that is what Heaven will be like after the drudgery of this world: brilliant and powerful and beautiful.
The unbaptized were baptized first and given robes of white and choruses of alleluia. Baptized already, my small group was brought forward next. A little unsteady at first, we recited, "I believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God." We then moved over to allow all those to be confirmed to step forward and we were confirmed one by one. I was last, naturally (I think God likes to make me nervous), but my responses were easy: "Amen" and "And with your spirit."
Then we were sent back to our seats and readied for Communion. This was the part I really had been nervous about, even back several months ago. I absolutely did not want to mess anything up here and wanted to be ready for it. About the time that we said "Domine non sum dignus..." ("Lord, I am not worthy..."), I realized that this would be the first time I wouldn't say the Spiritual Communion prayer. I think that shocked me a bit more into readying myself and followed the line toward the altar not with nervousness or shaking, but with excitement. I always pictured myself running eagerly to the front, but you can't really do that in a line of people. ;)
I had also always pictured myself bursting into tears (I am such an emotional person with big things, and this is obviously the biggest thing ever), but I returned to my seat to pray and felt very much as I did after my first confession. I felt light and new, like I was breathing for the very first time. I also felt like part of an amazing family, which was huge because of how many Catholics I joined with, but incredibly special as I sent prayers to God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin and St. Thérèse. I imagined them as the family I would one day join. Imagine the love in that group! Not that it really needs to be all of them because with God alone you're set and all, but that sounds like the best group of people. The feeling of belonging to and being surrounded by that family gave me a great sense of both peace and excitement.
Mass ended shortly after and I said my goodbyes to family. It was a bit hasty, but by this point it was eleven and they still needed to travel home. It was so good to have them there and I'll have to talk to them more about their thoughts. We went down to a small reception in the social hall where my sponsor gave me a gift (a pretty blue and silver Miraculous Medal!) and met my boyfriend. I've been waiting for that moment for a long time because they are very similar in some respects: being traditional, usually being right and way more knowledgeable about Catholic things than myself, making me laugh a lot...
Pretty soon things died down and that was it. Now I'm a Eucharist-receiving, confirmed Catholic and it is pretty great. I am so happy that I have made it to this point. It has been the major goal of my life for about a year. Now that it's done, I don't feel disappointed, as I often do after Christmas because the fun is gone: rather, the fun is just beginning. Nothing else has made my soul more at peace than joining the Catholic Church. That is not to say that I expect my life to be easy or simple now. Well, it is simple in a certain sense, by which I mean that my life and purpose is very simple in one way: I know where my faith rests and will use it as the cornerstone and compass of my life. But I expect trials and I welcome them. St. Therese spoke often of wanting to suffer and be a martyr for Christ. Suffering should keep us faithful and focused on God and will bring glory to Him. If I am to suffer or to be martyred, I would not prefer it any differently. Serious business!
Hello, Catholicism. Nice house you've got here.