Continued from Part 1.
That first Mass I visited with my fiance (we’ll call him Tom) was an experience I’ll never forget. I had been reading about Catholic theology, but had done next-to-no research about what actually happens at Mass. I scoured message boards, trying desperately to find a post that broke it down into “First Mass For Dummies” style language. You know,
1. You can cross yourself with water. It will not burn your flesh off.
2. While the kingdom, the power, and the glory ARE His now and forever, we pause before blurting that part out.
3. God will not rend the heavens and smite you for kneeling.
While I didn’t honestly think the holy water was going to burn me, 2 really happened and I was seriously concerned about 3. I kept waiting for the Mary worship to start. I held my breath during the Creed, thinking, “Surely, SURELY they’re about to spring it on us now!” But it never happened.
“Tom” and I pulled out of the parking lot soon after Mass was ended. We were both very, very quiet on the drive back to campus. I felt so much peace about what we had just witnessed that it was starting to have the reverse effect on me – I was royally, royally freaked out.
“Well,” I took a deep breath, “That was. . .actually beautiful.”
Tom looked relieved that I said something first. “I agree. Not at all what I was expecting.”
We didn’t say much else until we got to campus, but we spent the next several days discussing everything over, and over, and over again, and we decided that we wanted to pursue this whole Catholic thing for real. We weren’t positive that we wanted to convert, but something had stirred our hearts, and I for one did not, in any way shape or form, want to ignore that. By the time Advent ended, I had made up my mind. God was telling me to take the biggest spiritual leap of faith I’d ever made, and I would be an idiot to disobey.
Of course, immediately after I made that decision Tom and I had a highly traumatic breakup that involved an enormous betrayal, and I was left broken and shattered and picking up the dirty, nasty pieces. It was a few weeks before I was back at school, and the first few weeks of that semester are a blur to me – but I vividly remember thinking, “I just want to get to Mass.”
I was hurting.
I was betrayed.
I was ashamed.
And the next time I walked into the little mid-town Tulsa parish, I wasn’t full of suspicion. I had next to no answers about WHY I was becoming Catholic. All I knew was that I was desperate to sit in that pew and let the peace that permeated the air soak into my broken spirit. I didn’t think, “Gee, I could really use some time sitting in front of the body and blood of Christ”. I hadn’t the slightest clue what perpetual adoration was, outside of my feelings of eternal love for Johnny Depp and Dr Pepper. But there was something in that sanctuary that my heart cried out for, and I was going to let it drink its fill.
It would be a long time before I would bring myself to make the sign of the cross, and even longer after that before I would let myself kneel or genuflect. But healing was taking place.
And then my first Lent happened.
To be continued.