Last night, I received instructions on what to do for Mass on Confirmation day.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot less nervous about the whole process. During the Easter Vigil I watched some of my fellow RCIA classmates receive their sacraments, and it filled me with so much joy. They were so happy. God was in that church that evening, filling them with His Spirit. I left feeling renewed myself, between their dedication to the Church and the glory of our risen Lord.
But when I received that email, with the bullet-pointed list of where to go and what to do, it reminded me that I still have to go through it myself.
Those old nerves rose up, the knowledge of this being right but also the anxiety over the unknown. It’s exciting. It’s so exciting. But I recalled those days in the beginning, when I didn’t know anything. When I stared at a schedule at my first RCIA session in disbelief because right there, on paper, was the date of my Confirmation. It seemed impossible that it would come at all. Easter? Christmas was still months away at that point, so Easter was inconceivable.
Also last night, after reading over those instructions for the third time, I went back to St. Augustine’s Confessions. God has some sense of humor, because that night’s readings lead to his conversion in the garden. St. Augustine was distraught. He was at his lowest, having isolated himself from his friend so he may weep in peace. But God reached out to him. God, in His infinite patience and love, guided him to read a portion of Scripture that figuratively smacked him in the face.
“No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away… For Thou convertedst me unto Thyself, so that I sought neither wife, nor any hope of this world.” —St. Augustine, Confessions
I remembered my own moment of serenity. I had been cast in the darkness of doubt for months. Perhaps years. And God revealed himself in a singular moment. It was no lush garden; instead, it was the parking lot of the rectory. I sat in my car on that Saturday afternoon in August and said, “Okay, God. I’m gonna do this.” The two weeks until my first RCIA session seemed an infinitely long time to wait.
We need these little reminders at times. I know I do. So that the majesty of God doesn’t become commonplace. So that we’re not merely repeating prayers without contemplating them. He reminds me where I started, in that darkness of doubt, and the seemingly impossible way He brought me out of it. Because I still don’t understand how I’ve gotten to this point in my journey, nor will I ever, because it’s part of His mystery. He will continue to remind me, over and over, how it started. Where I came from. And I’m okay with that, because it reveals His wonder.
Confirmation is four days away. I don’t feel nervous because I doubt, nor because I don’t want to listen. It’s because I want to do it right. I want to honor Him the way He deserves to be honored. This Sunday is the start of that. It’s a new life—my own resurrection. May I never forget that.
Rather than have class last night, the RCIA team helped with a service project. This included entertaining an 11-year-old girl—who wound up entertaining us more—but in the midst of our treasure hunt, there was also prime opportunity for bonding between the volunteers.
I try not to discuss my commute to the parish much, especially around people I don’t know, but inevitably someone will bring it up. “You come from where?” they ask, and I simply shrug away my one-hour trip, saying I started the program when I lived closer and would prefer to finish it there.
But last night, my teacher laughed at that response. “She didn’t even live here before,” he said, which isn’t false—I was still a half-hour away, even before I moved.
One of the other volunteers turned to me and asked, “How did you end up at this parish?!”
I paused for a moment. My hesitation made the others chuckle. I had to come up with a quick answer, so I offered the easiest excuse—I blamed my sponsor. (Sorry, friend.) “Although,” I added, “he doesn’t go here, either.”
On my hour-drive home, which is completely silent now that my car’s radio is broken, I considered the question further. How did I end up there? My sponsor is the easy reply, but it’s not completely true. (Hey, you can’t get all the credit.) It could’ve also been the friend whose advice I sought in beginning who, when she couldn’t answer my questions, provided the names of priests I could talk to. It could’ve also been that one priest I ended up consulting, which makes the most sense because it is his parish. But that doesn’t fully answer the question, either, because I didn’t come to him on my own.
Ultimately, it was a joint effort. It was my sponsor, who first invited me to a Catholic event. It was that friend, who freely admitted she couldn’t help and sent me to someone who could. It was that priest, who talked with me for three hours one afternoon and said I was “basically already Catholic.”
It was all of you. That’s how it’s done—all of us, working together, for His sake.
Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God’s service. For they have set out for his sake and have accepted nothing from the heathen. So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth. —3 John 1:5–8
I flopped onto my oversize reading chair last night, with stacks of things to read piled on the nearby table—the book on Jesus that’s consumed the last few weeks. The apocrypha. A booklet explaining the meaning behind Confirmation. A prayer guide. And atop the pile, color-coded for our convenience, the schedule of events for the remaining weeks of RCIA.
I’ve been told Ash Wednesday is early this year. That honestly doesn’t mean anything to me—what difference does it make to someone who’s never taken part?—but staring at that schedule, it hit me that it’s a mere two weeks away. During the Advent season, it seemed so far. Now that Christmas is over, I truly understand how quickly the date approaches.
It’s not just Ash Wednesday. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not that big a deal. But it’s what it signifies. It’s the start of a new season. The final season of which I’m just a Candidate. Because when it’s over, and the Easter celebration begins, that’s when my own Confirmation comes. That’s when I’ll fully be part of the Catholic Church.
Yes, I thought of all this in the five seconds I stared at that schedule. I’m not going to say I panicked, but… maybe I did. A little.
The moment I decided to begin RCIA, back in August, this time couldn’t come fast enough. I was so certain of everything; it didn’t make sense that I wasn’t already part of the Church. But as we approach the final weeks, I need more time. There are beliefs I don’t understand. I don’t know all the responses in Mass. I haven’t finished the piles of books on that table by my reading chair. I haven’t even told my parents I’m converting. I’m not ready. And I feel like I can’t tell anyone that.
I could. Last night, I could’ve texted my priest. I could’ve called my sponsor. I could have done anything, but I sat in that reading chair and stared at the things I wasn’t reading. Fine, I started to panic. Logically, there’s no reason. I’m following God’s direction. I know it’ll be okay. But every so often, I remember that this is a big deal. And I don’t know how to process that.
I wish I didn’t live so far from the parish where I began my journey. Big changes are hard enough, but doubly so in an unfamiliar area. I don’t want to attend Ash Wednesday Mass down here. I don’t want to have my first confession (which I still have to do) with a priest I don’t know. Even getting to RCIA on a weeknight is difficult, because rush hour in New Jersey is… well, rush hour in New Jersey. My God, I knew this journey would be a challenge. I don’t know why You went and made it more difficult.
I’m going to fall back on something my sponsor told me after my first RCIA class: “He’s got you.” It’s so simple. It’s so obvious. But even if I don’t feel it sometimes, and especially in those moments of panic, He’s got me. He’ll let me have my little moment of panic, but He’s going to pick me back up and get me going again. After I’m done whining. Maybe during. Because I sure am annoying when I whine.