It’s Vera’s fault. And it isn’t.
Vera was our neighbor in the townhouse complex where we lived before I bought the home in which I currently dwell with my cat, Salem.
She became like another mother to me, but she was more than that – she was my buddy, my friend, my pal. So when she could no longer be alone in her own home due to imbalance and falling issues, she ended up coming to live with me. I am sure I will write more about her in later blogs.
One of the things I did for years was take her to the Saturday night 5 pm Mass at our local Catholic Church. We would sit at the back on the right, because it was an easier entrance and exit from there with her walker. (Funny aside. Vera was an independent soul. She hated that thing. When we went out – her hair perfectly coiffed, full makeup, darling outfit – she would bring it. But rather than use it, she carried it about two inches off the ground as she walked with her duck-like gait. As much as I loved her, I still laugh when I remember the sight.)
I did not know until I became Catholic in 2008 that we weren’t supposed to leave until the priests and the altar servers recessed out at the end of Mass. We always left after the Eucharist. It wasn’t a sign of disrespect. It was about how long it took to get her into the car, the traffic getting out of the parking lot, and a need to head to Red Lobster or catch a movie time or all of the above.
But that is what it was for me – the Eucharist. The more time that passed that I attended Mass, the more I longed to get in line with all those people going down for communion. It was like the call to Altar service I had when I was ten. Jesus was beckoning me. That’s all I knew.
Of course, to actually become Catholic as an adult, you have to take nearly a year’s worth of preparatory classes called “RCIA” (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). It is a preparatory class to help you understand the Church’s long history, what it believes and why and what the Mass itself really means and how grounded Biblically it truly is. At the Easter Vigil (the Saturday night before Easter Sunday), you are hopefully ready to join the Church – or not.
I was. Not because I had a deeply held belief in the doctrine of transubstantiation. Just that I knew Jesus was calling me to come to him and that I had come to respect that for practicing Catholics, that call is reverently lived in the Eucharist, not given once or twice a year in pale grape juice and a cracker in a nod to the Last Supper. The Eucharist is an answer to a call to intimacy with Him you can accept as many times a week as you like – provided you are doing so with a clean conscience. Confession is a different story than this one.
If the mother who raised me were alive (another different story), she would not have been pleased. She believed Catholics sinned all week and only went to Mass to be forgiven so they could get up the next day and do it all again. But she was angry with God for the death of her eldest son when he was only 20, and she didn’t like my going to church, period. That was why that Altar call at the age of ten struck me so profoundly. One of the few times she relented and let me go to our small Indiana town’s Church of Christ with a classmate, I wanted so desperately to answer that call. I cried inconsolable tears I could not stop.
Until Jesus called me to the Eucharist. Then my tears were dried.