Big Grace and the Gift of Faith

A few months ago, an acquaintance told me she was in a RCIA program. I don’t call her a “friend” because I really do not know her quite well. I think she is a nice person who has the potential to be a good friend but my knowledge of her and her life is very limited. We both belong to a club that meets once a month, I know her first and last name and I only vaguely know what she does for a living. I once met her grown children but can’t remember their names, I have no idea what her husband is like or even where they live and I recently realized I had never once asked her a personal question. So for her to suddenly tell me she was an RCIA candidate surprised me.

Immediately, I smiled and said, “Congratulations!” and she seemed really surprised by that response. So I guess you could say we both surprised each other. I congratulated her because although she had not completed the course and in reality had only just begun the process, I sensed by the way she told me about RCIA that she needed to be welcomed by a Catholic. The fact that my response surprised her, did not surprise me.  She probably rarely gets congrats. On the contrary, she probably gets asked ‘why?’ quite often. Raised an Episcopalian from birth she is surrounded by friends and family of that faith. I once heard an Episcopalian refer to his own faith as “Catholic Light”. He chuckled and said it was basically Catholicism without all of the guilt. So she probably really has confounded those closest to her as to why she would go from easy breezy to heavy duty. Why would you choose to confess in a confessional and tell a priest your sins when you could just do it in a general manner? Why would you choose to go where women are not allowed to be ordained and purposefully take a step back in time? Why would you choose a faith where clergy cannot marry, isn’t that inhuman? Why would you choose a church that is so seemingly “out of touch”?

We talked about a lot that day. She told me that she was devastated early on to find out that she may not make it all the way through the RCIA process based on a marital issue. (That issue has been resolved through the guidance of a priest). We discussed how she is not feeling very connected to her sponsor, a person assigned to her who seems very reserved and closed. We spoke of her desire to find a parish that is dedicated to sacred liturgy and sacred music far removed from more secular and modern forms that have seeped in through the cracks. She asked me what percentage of people in my parish receive communion on the tongue, something she has a strong desire to do. We talked about great books, great saints, great miracles and although she is ‘all in’ as far as Catholicism goes, she still has questions. I told her not to worry, so did I.    

During our long conversation, she said something very simple yet very beautiful to me. “I have always believed in transubstantiation.” I said it had never been a doubt in my mind and heart. Silently I thought to myself, did I never question it because I was just born in the faith? I have internalized that statement and now realize what a leap of faith it was coming from someone of a faith other than my own. At that moment I realized, I am a confirmed Catholic; she is not yet a confirmed Catholic. Yet this is a woman on fire. Am I a woman on fire?

I sensed strongly her happiness and excitement at the impending season of Lent culminating with the Easter Vigil and I couldn’t help being excited and happy with her. I realized that this has been and will be a true journey for her that will not end with the Easter Vigil. A journey complete with struggles, imperfections, questions and answers, good days and bad days. And within each one of those steps along the journey, little miracles and big grace to be found in each one.

Although her experience is different from my own, it still reminded me of my own faith journey. Even though I am a cradle Catholic, Catholicism is truly a gift. Does this mean I know all of the answers or never have questions along my journey?  Of course not. But I have never had to question the truths of Catholicism and just that is a gift in itself.

Amanda Vienne writes from Abbeville, LA where she resides with her husband Benji and her two daughters, Parrish and Ellis.