I love this season. I love May Crownings and First Holy Communions. I love seeing little girls in their frilly white dresses and tiny vails, little brides of Jesus. I love seeing little boys in their white suits and the nervous looks on the parent's faces hoping their polished sons will keep those suits clean. I love to watch the priests regally bend down and present each child with his or her first taste of the host. Such a wonderful and holy experience. But at the same time, I feel a little jealous... because I never had that. I never had the white dress, or the vail or the experience at age 7... because I am a Catholic convert. I became a Catholic as an adult through the RCIA. I was baptized in the Lutheran church (where my mother's parents belonged, but my mother never practiced). My father took us to the Christian Science church when my brother and I were young, but my mother did not go with us. I think my parents tried, but it's difficult when religious beliefs between two parents are split. Religion in our house was just never a priority.
By the time I was in high school, I don't think I had any faith of any kind. I didn't believe in anything my younger days at the Christian Science Sunday school had taught me and, quite frankly, I just wasn't interested. It wasn't until I was forced to take a course in World Religions as a sociology requirement that my interest in religion was initiated. I began to entertain the idea of going to church. I was pretty sure, based on my baptism and upbringing, that I wanted to remain a Christian, so I began checking out different local churches. I started with what I knew, or at least, what I could remember. I tried the Christian Science church again. I went to the Lutheran church. I visited a Presbyterian church, a Baptist church, an Evangelical church, a Charismatic church, etc. In the mean time, I had also heard that a local United Methodist church was looking for a french horn player for their brass choir. Score! I could listed to the gospel AND play my music (eliminate the bordom, perhaps?) I spent several Sundays at the United Methodist church. I really liked the pastor and I got a lot out of his sermons. I also really enjoyed playing in the brass choir there. But something was still missing...
I found the missing piece when I met Father James Jackson. Fr. Jim and I were both in line purchasing groceries at the local supermarket. The line was long and he had accidentally bumped me with his cart, which caused us to strike up a light conversation. He was in his clerics, so I knew he was a priest. I had never spoken to a priest before. I didn't know how to address him. He apoligies for the incident. I replied, "that's okay your holiness. No harm done." He laughed like that was about the funniest thing he'd ever heard. He could tell by the look on my face that I didn't know what was funny. He extended his hand "I'm Father Jim."
We talked about religion and I told him I wasn't particularly religious. He invited me to attend my first Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church where he was a parochial vicar. It happened to be the newer, large church that was right across the street from the development where I lived. The church was modern architecture and reminded me of an ark. I sat in the back, embarrassed that I didn't know the appropriate times to stand, sit or kneel, except to watch the other members of the congregation, but I loved the splendor of the priests in their long garments, the holy water, the eucharist, the alter boys, the music... everything. It felt whole, it felt right. For several weeks I "double dipped". I did my duty at the Methodist church then hurried to St. Elizabeth's for Mass. Occassionally I would run into Father Jim who would ask me how everything was going. In late August he mentioned they were starting up a new class he thought I might be interested in. An adult Catholic education class called RCIA. He gave me some information. "Conversion?" I asked. "Information." He replied... "Conversion, only if the Lord calls you." Then he smiled. "I'm not sure I'm ready to take such a large step." I said. "I just got here." "But you are here." Father Jim said. "Sure, because of you." I rebutteled. "No, because of Him." Father Jim said.
He was right. I had found the missing pieces in the Mass. And through RCIA, I too could participate fully. Father Jim was right, because of Him, I had found where I belonged and I joined the RCIA and began my education and conversion... I became a Catholic. And one Easter vigil, way back when, I took my first holy communion and made my confirmation with Father Jim and my sponsors standing beside me. And so, to date, I have received 6 of the 7 sacraments of the Catholic church. (It's almost impossible to receive all 7 since 6 is Matrimony and 7 is Holy Orders (becoming a priest or nun) and you can not normally do both. (There are acceptions. Some people get married, lose their spouse to death and then become ordained in the holy orders, but this is unusual.) I love the church. The more I learn, the less I know and the more I wish to dig deeper into the mystery of faith.