An Everyday Faith

Fifteen years ago this evening, I was received into the Catholic Church in a brief but beautiful ceremony during the Easter Vigil Mass. In one fell swoop, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation and made my public profession of fidelity: “I believe and hold to be true all that the Catholic Church proposes and teaches.” Then, within a few moments, I encountered my Lord for the first time in the Eucharist. The gifts I had received from my wonderful, faithful parents decades earlier – a knowledge of Jesus Christ, a deep appreciation of the Scriptures, and a thoroughly Christian view of the world – reached their full flower in a matter of moments. Meanwhile, in a sad commentary on the continuing disunity of the Body of Christ, my mother, the finest Christian I know, sat weeping in the second pew, bewildered by what to her appeared to be loss, not gain.

I have often reflected on the strange fact that the Easter Vigil passed without much meaning for me. After so many months and years of preparation, the actual event was anticlimactic. The late hour, the incense, the music, the crowd, the bishop in his magnificent vestments; it was all a bit too much to process within the moment. We were actors in a liturgical drama that evening, moving deliberately across a grand stage in accordance with an ancient script, but with the detachment of jaded thespians. Objectively, the drama was tailor-made for a peak experience, but one of the things I realized that evening was that Catholicism isn’t about peak experiences. Catholicism is an everyday faith, suitable for the mountaintop surely, but divinely configured for the valleys in which most people spend the days of their lives.

And so, it wasn’t until the 7:00 AM Mass on Easter Monday that the truth of what had happened to me became real. I wobbled into the silence of St. Brendan Church and took my place among a tiny cluster of five or six others. The lingering scent of incense hung in the air, a reminder of Saturday night’s liturgy, but the crowds were gone, the bishop decamped to his chancery, the tiny tongues of Resurrection fire extinguished, and the choir dismissed. In the half-light of a Monday morning, the 102,128th Monday morning since the Resurrection, a sleepy priest ascended the altar nearly unnoticed. He crossed himself and said in a reed-thin voice, “We begin as always in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost …”

In that moment I knew I was home.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

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  • http://ennis14 ennis14

    Lovely post Mark and I had to smile because as a Catholic I can relate well to your experience described here as being the way it has been for all my life and I’m 57(!) but something happened out of the blue for me this year that has never happened before and it was a gift of grace that fast forwarded me from the depths of the usual feelings associated with Lent. As you say so well, I was resigned to the usual “divinely configured valleys in which most people spend the days of their lives.” but for the first time ever I was catapulted out of it to feel the presence of Christ and this was on Maundy Thursday.
    I am sure that I will be back in the valleys as usual before long because realistcally life cannot keep me on the mountain top but i just wanted to bear witness to it and rejoice in it, even if it was only for a short while.
    Blessings

    • Mark Gordon

      Thanks be to God!

  • Melody

    “…. in a sad commentary on the continuing disunity of the Body of Christ, my mother, the finest Christian I know, sat weeping in the second pew, bewildered by what to her appeared to be loss, not gain.” This is a poignant description for me; I’m sure my own mother-in-law had similar feelings when her son, my husband (now a Catholic deacon), joined the Church in 1982. It says a lot about her that she never made one negative comment about his decision. I owe her a lot. She didn’t go to the vigil Mass, but offered to sit with our kids; for which I was grateful. Preschoolers would have found the Easter Vigil pretty long and tiring. My mother-in-law passed away on Holy Thursday of 2009, she remained a devout Protestant to the end. I’m sure she is in a place now where divisions in the Body of Christ have ceased.

    • Mark Gordon

      Amen.

  • M. Jordan Lichens

    Wonderful! Tonight marks my eight year as a Catholic and I’ve had no regrets (but more than a few changed opinions). Thanks for sharing, from one fellow convert and Day lover.

    • Mark Gordon

      Congratulations, Jordan. And you’re right: in a very short period of time the Servant of God (and convert) Dorothy Day has captured my mind and my heart.

  • danielimburgia

    Obliged. oh, and welcome to both you and your Mom.

    • Mark Gordon

      Thanks, Daniel. He is Risen!!