This is the last post in my series, and it’s airing almost two years to the day from when I first visited St. Mary’s.
Traditionally, converts come into the church at the Great Vigil of Easter service, held on the night before Easter Sunday.
My friend, Deidra, told me to “pay close attention.” So the first thing I noticed was an insect struggling on the floor while the kneeler was still up. The insect had wings. It belonged outside.
After they extinguished the lights in the church, we went out to the courtyard to light the Easter fire. St. Mary’s is next door to Altdorf, a restaurant and bar, and the band was playing, “My Way.”
I can’t make this stuff up. A struggling insect and a Frank Sinatra standard.
As we were walking back in, I caught my son’s eye, and he said he wanted to sit with me. I was shocked because he was not looking forward to a two-and-a-half hour church service.
This was my third night in a row at church. I’d cried all through the Maundy Thursday service and through much of the Good Friday service. That night I was dry-eyed. Clear-headed. At rest.
There was a long prayer sung by Father Enda. Then the readings — lovely, but they skipped Ezekiel and the dry bones. I love that one!
The homily was super short. He asked us to consider where we are encountering a stone that seems impossible to move, especially a stone of fear or worry. Father Enda reminded us that the women didn’t need to move the stone; the Lord took care of that.
Then, the baptisms. All Latino boys and girls, dressed in white. White dresses for the girls, white dress shirts and white pants for the boys.
Finally, it was time for me and the other boring, adult confirmands. I was the first one to be anointed with oil. I had been warned, “Do not wear your best shirt,” and that was good advice because Father Enda did spill a little on it.
They had said something about a marriage, too, and I looked around for a bride. I was shocked when a husband and wife from our group stepped out and renewed their vows, right then and there. Father Enda said, “In sickness and in health? And breakfast in bed every morning?” Their daughter, who is my son’s age, was also being confirmed, and she was just standing there in her black shirt, jeans, sandals and blue toenail polish, with tears running down her cheeks. I don’t think she knew they were going to renew their vows.
From then, we zipped on through the rest of Mass. I had been told that Father Enda would serve us, but he stepped aside. I was actually the first one to go forward because of where I was sitting. My sponsor, the sweet woman who talked me down that night at RCIA, was one of the servers. I asked her with my eyes, “Can I go to you?” and she nodded. I can’t think of any person I would rather have my first communion with than with her.
And it was done. The recessional was “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” sung as multiple “alleluias.” It’s my husband’s favorite hymn. It’s also the same song we had as the recessional at our wedding.
What shocked me was the love and support. Before the service, my daughter Googled “Catholic symbols for dummies” and made a card, and she also gave me a Catholic bracelet she randomly found in her locker. I had emails from family and friends. My dad came. After the service, a woman handed me a card with a booklet of prayers.
A few months later, Father Enda asked me if I was going to help with RCIA this year.
“Oh, no. They don’t want me,” I said.
“And why not?” he asked.
“Because I’m not exactly 100 percent on everything.”
He laughed—this man who has been a priest for 50 years—and said, “You think I am?”
Yep. I’m home.