I recently had the honor of sponsoring a candidate for our Archdiocese's Rite of Election. The Rite is traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent and begins the process of welcoming new Catholics into the Church. As I sat in the pew of our Cathedral, I was swept back in time to the year 1991, when I participated as a candidate getting ready to 'cross the River Jordan', as they say. I remembered all those many years ago, standing so proud and professing my faith, giving my Amen so strong, I was going to be a great Catholic. It only hit me yesterday, as I listened to their strong "I do's" and "I will's", that many of these candidates and catechumens have no idea to what they are agreeing to, not fully.
I didn't. In all honesty, I truly did not know what it meant to adhere to all that the Church teaches and what that entailed. What would I be giving up as to my own beliefs and convictions?Oh I believed in the consecration and transubstantiation of the Body of Christ, I knew that the bread and wine became the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. I believed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and knew what that meant, I also believed in her Assumption. But what I questioned was to why women couldn't be priest, I mean what was the big deal, other religions had female pastors, right? Poor me, I had no clue as to the true meaning of the Sacramental Priesthood and what true Ordination entailed. I also was somewhat of the "Nancy Pelosi" mindset, I certainly didn't believe in abortion, but what someone else did was between them and God. I was not to judge them. Well I was right about the not judging them part, but I was clueless as to my responsibility in the teaching and keeping of the faith when it comes to protection of the unborn and the rights of individuals in all aspects of life.
These are two examples of controversy when it comes to the teaching of the Church and my responsibility as a Catholic to adhere and be obedient to this teaching. I wonder if candidates and catechumens understand what apostolic means, I certainly didn't. I have come to understand so much about the deposit of faith that Jesus gave to the Apostles and especially Peter and how that is the teaching that has been handed down for these past 2000+ years and this is the reason this great Church has persevered all this time.
Even something like our Liturgical calendar I didn't take very seriously. Lent was a time to give up something as a sacrifice, no more, no less. When I began to live Lent as a spiritual desert and to walk the walk of Jesus during the Easter Triduum, then I got it. I understood the importance of why there should not be weddings during Lent, or (this is a big one) why we should not be having that big crawfish boil and beerfest on Good Friday. I was not LIVING my faith, I was talking the talk but not walking the walk. To identify myself as a Catholic, I must be willling to adhere to all the teachings of the Church and the Holy Father. I could no longer be a "cafeteria catholic". For a part of me that was strong willed and stubborn, this was a hard pill to swallow. But in all honesty, it was easy actually. I knew this was what my Baptism and Confirmation was all about. I, as all Catholics, are set apart for a holy purpose. That is our mission as disciples of Christ. There are things I don't agree with but I have come to know that this is based on ignorance on my part. My salvation is not of this world and it is not for me to agree or disagree, but to be obedient. God will take care of me.
I encouraged my friend to continue reading, praying and especially to get involved with her parish church. To make her Church of which she will be a valued member the center of her and her family's life. I encouraged her to spend some valuable time in the Adoration Chapel, to learn and grow in her faith, and to be open to the way the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit will work in her life. I do this because I speak from experience. I continue to learn and grow everyday by the power of the Holy Spirit and I see how Christ works in my life. I have a long way to go to get to the promised land, but the journey is so worth it.