Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Conversion Part 5 - Signs and Wonders

Did I mention my husband was a born and bred Catholic?  He wasn't a practicing Catholic though and hadn't been since he left home.  We actually got married in Las Vegas by a minister in a Christian ceremony.  Around the time of our wedding, we'd agreed that we would "raise our children in church."  Dear Hubby wasn't too picky about the type of church since he'd not attended any church  since he was a teen.

We started attending  the United Methodist church in downtown Austin.  We loved it, until the second baby came along.  Then it was just too darn hard to get there.  We had moved, too, just before her birth, which added 10 miles to the commute downtown.  Also, it was so big; I'd grown up in small churches and after my work at First Church, I longed for the intimacy of a smaller congregation.

Monday's gospel reading was the story of the crowd following Jesus to Capernaum after the feeding of the five thousand.  Jesus said to them, . . ." you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life. . . "

Signs and wonders still abound, though sometimes more subtle than those to which Jesus was referring, and yet we still focus on our basic human needs most of the time.  Occasionally, though, my eyes are open.

One such sign and wonder came early in our marriage.  When we first moved to Round Rock with our baby girls, we started looking for churches.  Most were uninspiring; a few were downright odd. After a few unsatisfactory visits to unfriendly, non-diverse local protestant churches I decided to hedge my bets by making phone calls before visiting.

I began calling churches and asking whomever answered about the ethnic mix of the congregation - as we are a inter-racial family -- and what the church's mission was.  Few knew these answers.  I was truthfully just trying to save time but these responses were very telling!  Most were all white churches but they tried to make it sound better by saying, "we welcome everyone."  To a person, no one I spoke to at any of these congregations knew what their mission statement was!  On a whim, I decided to phone the local Catholic church, St. John Vianney.

Fr. Sam answered.  He told me the parish's mission statement  (Our mission is to grow in, give witness to and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ)  and that while most members were white, they were intentionally reaching out to families of varying ethnic backgrounds.  This was the first sign.  He asked what we were looking for in a church.  He engaged me.  He never once asked if we were Catholic.  His openness and honesty caught me off guard and we visited the following Sunday.  I was a little lost for most of the mass because they didn't use missals, but Dear Hubby seemed right at home.  The second sign and wonder was the homily; it could have been written from my "play book."  It was a lot of what I deeply believe all in one sermon.  It was wonderful.  I was entranced. My husband looked at me and whispered, "So I think you found our church.

Third sign:  the congregation was tiny, but warm.  It was a brand new parish, 3 months old, that met in an elementary school.  Everyone spoke to us.  One of my hubby's public high-school classmates was there with her sister.  Though only 40 or so families were there, several were Hispanic and two were black. This was the best mix we'd found so far.

Over the weeks that followed, I became familiar with the mass, probably due in large part to Father Sam's refusal to use missals; the lack thereof forced me to pay attention and learn to keep up.  While I did not know all I was doing, I was becoming comfortable.  We began to get involved and before I knew it, we were registering as members. Our family was number 68.  

This was the beginning of the end of my life as a protestant.  More later!

Part One of my story
Part Two  - Midnight Mass
Part Three - Crucifix Ephiphany
Part Four - Seeker
Part Six - Annulment
Part Seven - Taking it on Faith

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Grace in the Moment

At the hour of the annual blessing of the sacred oils in our diocese, mere moments before our priests would lie prostrate before the altar, I was given a gift.  I was given a gift of grace, of eyes once again opened wide.

It started out simply enough.  I went for a walk.  It was a little mommy-multitasking mission; I decided to walk while my son was in OT.  It was a tiny act of obedience to my Lenten discipline of diet and exercise, on of my last acts before the end of Lent.  And in this little act, though reluctantly and grudgingly offered, was a treasure.

This morning I read some words by Simsha Fisher, one of my heroes, and when I read her post, I couldn't get past the first few paragraphs.  I was astounded.  I wrote about seeing the beauty in the present moment but even in penning the piece, I knew something was missing.

I realize that in all of this, in all of this living, striving, looking back and looking forward, in all of this stuff of which my life is made, I have only now. I have this moment, this now.  I have these children, this husband, this home, this mess, this body, these thoughts.  I have right here, right now.  And yet even in seeing that, I was  missing the recognition of grace. 

I'm living in a beautiful, crazy, chaotic world of clashing bells and clanging cymbals.  It's busy here.  Children are calling, birds are singing in the yard and my oldest is clattering around in the kitchen.  And I live my life as if I had forever to savor these sounds.

In truth, not only do I want to celebrate the beauty of the present moment, I must recognize that all I truly have is the present moment.  I have this time to hear a single "caw" of the grackle on the grass; this second to hear the clock tick one more time (and I never realized it was so loud). It is so quiet in this slowed down experience of the present that you could hear pin drop. Really I have not even a second, but a nano-second in which to reach out and grab it and say, "This, this now is my life.  This is my moment."

I have this tiny particle of time in which to fall to my knees and be grateful. 

And this I do.

And therein is my joy.