To Shout “Happy New Year!” on November 29

Today is our New Year’s Day, or at least it’s mine. I was a lector at last night’s Vigil Mass. I picked up my missal and noted: Year C! We’ve entered a new cycle. I entered Year A as an RCIA student at the end of 2007, Year B as a Catholic at Advent 2008—I am now completing my three-year course in Catholic liturgy! First of many, I hope.

Then a few minutes later, Father Barnes lighted the first Advent candle, and my heart chirped. I remember the Advent candles from my early years in the Episcopal Church. Other than Christmas and Easter, the Sundays of Advent were the time when I always felt that I was coming back to Church, coming back to God and Jesus. Ah, yes, this is what it’s all about!

The rest of the year was, frankly, a blur. I went with my parents to church every Sunday, served as an acolyte every other Sunday or so (loved doing so with Dr. Harold Bassage), and took communion once a month. But otherwise? We didn’t mark the beginning of Lent by going to church or smearing ashes on our forehead. We gave up nothing for Lent and didn’t attend Good Friday services either. There were no saints’ days to observe, no references to Vietnamese martyrs with unprounceable names or wild women of the 12th century like Hildegard of Bingen.

I was made vaguely aware by odd old terms like Whitsuntide that there was a religious way of marking the year without using January, February, or December. But nothing in Sunday school or our family’s religious culture enforced this awareness. We were living a stripped-down Protestant life: go to Church on Sunday and work/play your fanny off the rest of the week. Keep your Day-Timer up to date, and don’t miss Church on Christmas!

Then I became a Catholic, and every day was someone’s feast. (First thought: Doesn’t that make fasting impossible?) I read Kristin Lavransdatter, where time is marked not by the months but by the liturgical calendar: “A week after the feast of St. Olaf, Kristin and her father—” I found it the most beautiful book, as have several friends. I began reading the Catechism seriously. (Confession: I read Kreeft’s Cliff Notes in RCIA.) I began teaching religious ed to fourth-graders and realized how little I know about the liturgical year, about this extraordinarily rich tradition that is now mine.

Becoming a Catholic is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. The greatest. Every day at Mass now, I have something to celebrate, and every time I pick up the Liturgy of the Hours to recite something so simple as a psalm, the clock in my heart goes tick.

  • Frank

    About the calender… I lived in Egypt for 15 months 1984/85. Nicest people! Not a warlike bone in their body. No wonder Israel shellacks 'em in wartime. But spiritually? They have us beat hands down in the spirituality department as a culture. Maybe not the Marine Corps Warrior ethos culture, but nowadays our leaders are starting to make our Marines look like Hessians to me.I am a Christian! Jesus, the Son of God, died a horrible death for me, and I was wandering around ignorant, and I might add blissfully ignorant, of important dates that my family would murder me if I forgot! Love with Heart, Soul, Mind, & Strength means you remember stuff on the calender! Is this "Works" vs. "Faith"? Um, I'd argue it is common courtesy.

  • Webster Bull

    Amen, Brother Frank! Living the calendar means "Be Vigilant!" (today's Gospel message, and yesterday's) Ye know not the day nor the hour. Each hour you live, you're on God's time.

  • Anonymous

    Rick said,I have always believed in God but always seemed to be searching for a way to become closer to God. I was baptized in the Lutheran church but stopprd attending after confirmation (seems pretty stupid I know). Being an avid reader i read Peale, Schuller, Swindoll, Osteen, none of them really doing much for me.Two years ago I was not working, recovering from cancer treatments, and getting books from the local library. Something(the Holy Spirit) kept drawing me to Catholic books. After a month or so of this my wife asked in a joking manner if I was going to convert I replied that I just might.At any rate not to bore anyone with all the details, last Easter my wife and I both were received into the Catholic church. I keep telling anyone that asks, I can't understand why everyone isn't Catholic. This is our first year having Advent candles. At 56 my life has changed and I have never been happier.

  • Webster Bull

    Rick, Thanks for sharing this story. I can't understand either (why everyone isn't Catholic). I've never been happier either. If sometime you'd like to put this account into a longer form, a personal story of conversion, I'd consider publishing it. I want to broaden the writing base of this blog. Best, Webster


    I have recently begun to enjoy the daily readings about the various Saints, and find it remarkable that I have lived with such a gap in my historial knowlege of the Church — for 40-plus years!! Now I must play catch-up. Your summary on the life of Dorothy Day was tremendous, and piqued my curiosity. I want to read more about her. I always wonder how such converts came to know the Catholic faith and its history at such a profound level. Where and how were they catechized? I find that the converts of pre-Vatican II "ramped-up" quickly. Folks like you, Wester seem to have benefited from a marvelous RCIA. As a cradle Catholic I feel a bit left out…

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks, Doc. (You don't mind me calling you Doc, do you? Mujerlatina is a mouthful!)While I had a wonderful RCIA experience, my 40 adult years as a non-Catholic were really somehow, mysteriously the preparation for becoming a Catholic. I learned SO much about the church in those "wilderness" years and about spirituality, different traditions, modes of prayer & meditation, lots of history — And then Catholicism came along as the large central piece of the jigsaw puzzle to which every other piece bit beautifully. Sometimes I envy those who have been Catholics all their lives, especially when I know people in my parish who have forgotten more about the Church than I will ever have time to learn. But the good news for me is, perhaps I don't take it for granted the way many cradle Catholics do. Catholic, to me, is new and exciting. For many of them, it's old hat.

  • Frank

    Hey "Bones" (hope you don't mind that, but heck I've never called an M.D. that before and Capt Kirk loved McCoy so…):I was extremely blessed with an RCIA program that had the Pastor as the main teacher. That was good because I don't suffer middlemen gladly. Even at that though, the main thing that drove me deeper and deeper into the Treasury that the Church has to offer was the feeling of what you just said above:"I want to read more about her."And to me the "Her" in question is The Church.