The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Best Day of My Life

The elect of St. Cecilia's Catholic Church in Beaverton Oregon made their way to the aging parish center this last Tuesday night for RCIA. For the better part of the last year they have given their Tuesday evenings to the study of what it means to be Catholic. Immediately they knew something was going to be different about this particular night's class. Gone were the round class room tables, and the chairs were arranged in a half-moon shape with a lone podium front and center. The lights were already dimmed, and sitting quietly in a chair off to the side was Father Steve, our parish's associate pastor, and a graduate of the RCIA process himself. The setting was not a total surprise as it had been announced that Father Steve would be hearing confessions this evening for those who had been baptized, but not yet confirmed into the faith. It was their first confession.

As soon as all of the class had assembled, Father led a beautiful prayer service which included several Gospel passages of Christ bestowing His forgiveness; His mercy; His healing; His love on a variety of sinners. Between each reading was a reflection designed to help everyone do their own examination of conscience. When the prayer service was completed Father quietly got up and left the class and walked across the street to the church.

Most of the class followed Father Steve over to the Church, and five, those awaiting baptism stayed behind. I had the privilege of shepherding these folks over to the parish's adoration chapel. None of them had ever been inside of it before. We gathered in the vestibule of the chapel for a moment, and I gave them a brief introduction to adoration and the proper etiquette of greeting Our Lord in the chapel. I encouraged them to reflect upon their lives, and though they would soon have all of their sins washed away in the waters of the sacrament of baptism that perhaps this evening they could bring to mind the one thing they wanted Christ's pardon for the most. This evening they could kneel before Our Lord in adoration, and thank Him for the gift of cleansing of this sin they would soon receive at the Easter Vigil.

We entered the chapel as quietly as we could as to not disturb the other worshipers, and the five dispersed to their own separate pews. I knelt down in the last row and gazed upon the host in the monstrance and prayed to Jesus that I hoped we had done right by these people this year and that He bless those whom He would soon claim as His own. I experienced the physical sensation I often experience at the consecration of the host at mass; a feeling as if a million tiny needles were lightly touching my body from within. And then a quiet thought surfaced in my consciousness. It was a simple little voice; a gift that brought tears to my eyes; a gentle, assuring whisper,"I am pleased."

I left the adoration chapel and crossed the street over to the main church. Lined up against the wall was a small contingent of our RCIA class, waiting in line a respectful distance from the Reconciliation Room. The rest of the class was sitting quietly in the pews, praying, preparing, or simply mustering the courage to get in line. Each person I saw exit the confessional had a look of bewildered happiness.

There was one scene that touched me deeply. A young lady was fighting back the tears as she got closer and closer to the front of the line. When the moment of truth came, and it was her turn to go into the Reconciliation Room, she burst into tears and her grandmother, who is sponsoring her and has been by her side at each of the classes, quickly came to her and comforted her and told her it would be okay. The young woman gathered herself and went into the confessional. Within a minute, though we could not hear what was being said, a joyous, girlish laughter erupted from within the confessional. She emerged from the room with the peace of Christ on her face and tears of joy in her eyes.

I walked back across the street to our classroom where the newly reconciled were told to go as we were planning a closing prayer once everyone was done. One by one, the members of our RCIA class came into the room and one could not help notice that they were changed. Grace was evident in their movement; their demeanor; even the tone of their voices.

I sat a couple of chairs down from a woman who is about my age, and I was trying to figure out a tactful way to ask, "So how was it?" without sounding too nosy. She was not talking to anyone, but had a very content look on her face. I leaned towards her and said, "So I guess it wasn't like you see in movies, huh?"

She looked me directly in the eye and with a beaming smile said, "Today is the best day of my life."

I wanted to respond back to her that it only gets better, or that the best is yet to come, but I decided to simply share her joy and I told her that I was happy for her. It is nights like this that inspire me to come back to RCIA year after year. Each year I am humbled by God's gift of faith that is open to all who simply open themselves up to receive. What a joy to watch the Holy Spirit in action, and what an honor to participate in the process.


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