Finishing what He’s Started

Today, I spent three and a half hours talking to a priest.

I texted my friend immediately afterward. “To be able to have that time with a priest is great,” she replied. I hadn’t expected it myself—maybe an hour, and then I’d be on my way. I didn’t know how I would start the conversation, but we talked. And kept on talking. And he kept on saying how he wasn’t sure how I wasn’t already Catholic, because I’ve been more dedicated than most people he knew.

“I’m still learning,” I said. “I’m doing everything.”

I was the one who brought up RCIA. I already had the info session in my calendar; I corrected him as to what time it began. I think I always knew I would do it. But I needed to tell someone—namely, a priest—to keep me accountable, and to prevent me from trying to back out again. Because when it comes down to it, I’m not doing this for myself. I’m not doing it for other people, though their support has been invaluable. I’m doing this for God, and because God has called me here. It’s time for me to listen.

“There’s nothing holding you back,” he said.
“Besides myself.”
But he disagreed. “You’re already Catholic. You just have to finish the sacraments.”

I have to finish what He has started.

That Time I Thanked a Homeless Preacher

It was a long walk from 14th Street to Port Authority—about two miles. But it was a pleasant evening, and the walk sure beat spending money on the subway. Besides, I had some things to discuss with God. And long walks are ideal prayer time.

I’d just started thinking of conversion. A new world was opening up to me; the walls of fear and hesitation were breaking down. So that night, God and I talked. I walked the twilit Manhattan streets automatically, paying more mind to my silent prayers than my steps. I don’t know if this is right, I’d told Him. It’s such a big change. One doesn’t go from a non-denominational upbringing to a religion steeped in tradition so easily. Or at all? I wasn’t sure.

Please give me something to say I’m going in the right direction, I silently pleaded, not normally one to plead for anything, silently or otherwise.

I turned the corner onto 8th Avenue, and there was a man bellowing Bible verses on the sidewalk.

He looked normal enough, not like the scraggly-bearded homeless men with apocalypse signs. His voice was crisp, like an actual preacher. I became conscious of my walking again, only because I’d nearly lurched onto the sidewalk. When I stepped up to him, he hesitated in his reading. I spoke before he could start up again.

“Thank you,” I said. “I’ve been walking and talking to God, looking for answers.”
He was speechless at first—had anyone ever talked to him?—but then, he smiled. “Thank you.” He pointed toward the sky. “The answers aren’t down here. They’re up there.”

I can’t remember if he resumed his reading after. Maybe he just watched me leave. Maybe he, too, had been searching for answers. My steps quickened. My vision blurred, the crazy woman laughing and weeping outside Penn Station. I guess this is it, I said, grasping the cross I wore around my neck. To say “Thank You” wasn’t adequate. I had to get home. I had to share it. And I had to start.

Ancient Worship

It was awe-inspiring enough to learn that today’s traditions are the same practiced in the early church. But it’s something else entirely to read of those early church traditions. I’m going to throw a bunch of quotes at you from the aforementioned Story of Christianity, of worship in the second century.

there were two main parts in a communion service. First there were commented readings of Scripture, with prayers and hymn singing… then came the second part of the service, communion proper, which opened with the kiss of peace. After the kiss, the bread and wine were brought forth and presented to the one presiding, who then offered a prayer over the elements… then the bread was broken and shared, the common cup was passed, and the meeting ended with a benediction.

Every Sunday was a sort of Easter, and a day of joy; and every Friday was a day of penance, fasting, and sorrow.

Once a year there was a very special Sunday, the day of resurrection the greatest of Christian celebrations… part of what took place at Easter was the baptism of new converts, and the renewal of the vows of baptism by those who were already Christian. In preparation of these events, there was a time of fasting and penance.

Our traditions aren’t just “based on” the early church. This is it. This hasn’t changed. And it’s beautiful.