As of Saturday evening, I am now a baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic! Holy Week started last Thursday, and it was a whirlwind of activity all weekend. Very busy, but it was a great time.
Thursday was Maundy Thursday/Holy Thursday. Part of the mass was a foot washing ceremony, symbolic of when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet during the Last Supper. I was initially really nervous about this, because I am not a fan of being in front of others as the center of attention. But, once I got there, and we did a walk-through, a lot of the nervousness faded. Then, when it was time for the ceremony during the mass, I was totally fine. No nervousness (which was odd). The ceremony was surprisingly beautiful. All of the people in RCIA (those going through preparing for baptism and those preparing for confirmation) were up there as well, and both priests were washing feet, one at a time. During all of this, the story of the last supper was being read and music was being played. It was really nice (plus, the church was freezing due to an AC issue, and the water was warm, so I can’t complain too much).
Then, after mass, I stuck around to watch the church be stripped. This was when all the adornments were removed from the altar and the walls, and wouldn’t be brought be in until the Easter Vigil. It was very solemn and quiet, and just a time for a lot of reflection and thinking about where I with my faith and where I wanted to end up. It was just, overall, really nice and thought-provoking.
Friday was spent with a ton of house remodel stuff going on. It was basically “go” from the moment we woke up. We got a ton of things done with the bathroom (which is another post in the making), as well as some cleaning and general readying of the house. We had the day off work as a holiday for Good Friday, so we tried to put it to use (days off are rare in our work). We hung a lot of cement board in the bathroom, and my shower is starting to look like, well, a shower! Very exciting stuff, to say the least.
Saturday was the big day! We had a dress rehearsal / run through for the Easter Vigil service at 11:00am that was to last “at least an hour.” Two and a half hours later, we were finished. I’m glad we had it though, because there was so much that went on, I wouldn’t have known what to do! After that, I ran over to the local outlet mall to grab a few things, then back home to help out around the house before the evening mass. I had to be at the church by 7:45pm at the latest, so I left around 7:00pm to give myself plenty of time and to get my stuff set up. We’d been warned that we would be DRENCHED…so to bring a change of clothes. ALL items would need to be changed. So, I wanted to make sure that my outfit was set up, that my hair dryer and stuff were all ready to go, and that I had everything I needed. After that, I just hung out and waited for the show to start.
7:45pm rolled around and we started with a fire pit outdoors that was blessed and then used to light the Paschal Candle. From there, all the sponsors and godparents had candles that were lit off the Paschal candle, and were then brought back into the church to light everyone else’s candle in the congregation. The cool thing about the Easter Vigil is that the church starts off in darkness. Then, as those of us being baptized and confirmed come in with our sponsors, the sponsors light candles of those in the congregation, and the candle light slowly spreads throughout the church. It’s really quite gorgeous. After that, there were some prayers, some readings, a homily…the usual stuff. Then, the baptism.
I had been “chosen” to be baptized first. Kathy (RCIA director) said it was because I had a way of putting everyone else at ease. Honestly, I think it’s because she knows that 90% of the time I end up making a fool of myself, and at least she’d get a few laughs out of the peanut gallery. But, whatever…po-tay-to / po-tah-to. It was my turn, so I got into the baptismal font, kneeled, and Father Clem poured water of me three times, baptizing me in “the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” And then…it was done. I was helped out, given a towel, a white robe garment to wear over my clothes for the rest of the vigil, and then whisked away to “Conference Room #1” to get changed. The entire process took, maybe, 3 minutes. And while it seemed fast, it also seemed to slow down a bit, and was very profound for me. It was truly a culmination of the process I had been undertaking for the past seven months. Plus, again…the water was warm and the church was cold. I couldn’t complain.
After that, things seemed to speed past. Everyone was baptized, then those children not being confirmed (because they were too young) were anointed with oils, then we were all brought back into the church for more prayers, more readings, and Confirmation. Because I was an adult and had decided to go through this process, I was baptized, confirmed, and given first Eucharist all in one church service. After the baptism, we were then taken through confirmation. At this point, we were anointed with oils on our forehead and were sent back to our seats (the oils smelled lovely, truly…but good lord were they overpowering!). After about an hour of more prayers, more readings, and another homily, it was time for Eucharist (nearing the end!). By this point, it was probably 11:15pm and J and I were exhausted! So, I received my first Communion in the Catholic Church. Then, a few more prayers, another song or two, and we were done! At midnight. Oy!
So, overall…it’s been an incredibly long past few days. Well worth it in every way, but long. J stuck with it though and stayed for the entire Easter Vigil (I was proud of him…he had no idea what was going on), and I told him his Catholic duty now extended to Christmas services only. I figured I’d let him off the hook for Easter after that one. I’m incredibly glad I did it, and I’m so eager to see where my faith journey will lead me. If you’ve made it this far in the post, well done! I know it was a long one!