Today, my husband and I celebrate the tenth anniversary of our joint reception into the Catholic Church. We were confirmed at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, MN, during a noon daily mass. Originally, we were scheduled to be confirmed with the rest of our RCIA class on June 1, the Feast of Pentecost, but we were moving out of state that weekend and requested permission to be confirmed earlier. (I discovered later, by happy coincidence, that our confirmations took place on G.K. Chesterton\’s birthday.)
I\’ve talked about what led us to the Catholic Church in my conversion story, but I\’ve spent the last few days reflecting on what I love most about being Catholic. This is by no means an exhaustive list – if I tried to list everything I loved about the Church, this post would be entirely too long.
The Eucharist. No other Christian church on earth (our Eastern Orthodox brethren being a notable exception) has the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ at every Mass. Even after ten years, I get a thrill each time the priest stands in persona Christi and proclaims, “This is my body, given for you.” I don\’t know where I\’d be without the graces of this sacrament. I love what the following Vatican II document has to say about the Eucharist:
“At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47)
The Saints. Our fifth child, due October 8, was recently diagnosed with a birth defect – specifically, bilateral club feet. As the shock of the diagnosis wore off and acceptance began, I went searching for a patron saint for my little one. As far as I can tell, there isn\’t a patron saint specifically for people with club feet, but if I had to nominate one I\’d choose Saint Alphonsa, India\’s first female saint. (One of the miracles that led to her canonization was the healing of a child with club foot in 1999!)
Since I\’ve found out about Saint Alphonsa, I\’ve regularly asked her to pray for our baby. I\’ve also asked the baby\’s two miscarried siblings in heaven to pray for him/her. What a joy and comfort to know that my baby has special intercessors in heaven!
Offering It Up. If you hang around in Catholic circles long enough, you\’ll eventually hear the phrase “offer it up” in reference to any kind of suffering. It\’s a enormously comforting teaching, because it shows that suffering isn\’t needless. We can help others in the midst of and through our own suffering. It doesn\’t necessary take away our suffering, but it does help to know that our suffering isn\’t in vain.
I had an extraordinary experience a few weeks ago, over Mother\’s Day weekend. I was suffering through a nasty attack of bronchitis. Due to my pregnancy, I couldn\’t take many of the standard remedies for symptom relief and was relying on cough drops, hot tea with honey, and Vicks Vapo-Rub. That evening, nothing seemed to help my coughing or congestion, and I couldn\’t sleep as a result. I began throwing myself a massive pity party, but suddenly I heard a voice in my head saying, “Don\’t waste your suffering; offer it up!”
I obeyed that inner voice and started praying the rosary, offering up my suffering for all women who were struggling during the Mother\’s Day weekend, whether due to infertility, miscarriage, abortion, child loss, or other reasons.
Amazingly, as I prayed, my coughing stopped and my congestion cleared up until I could breathe quite easily. I fell asleep in the midst of a Hail Mary and stayed asleep the entire night, without coughing myself awake, for the first time in days.
I know my experience isn\’t typical when offering up suffering – for example, while in labor with my fourth child, I said the Divine Mercy prayer over and over as a way to offer up the pain of contractions, and it certainly didn\’t make my experience any less painful! – but it was an unexpected gift and I feel so fortunate to have been granted it.
Confession. I have to admit I don\’t like examining my conscience or going to Confession, but I absolutely love the feeling of a squeaky-clean-soul after receiving absolution. I\’ve also found that it\’s much easier to to keep from sinning when going to Confession regularly, as John Paul II can attest:
\”It would be an illusion to seek after holiness, according to the vocation one has received from God, without partaking frequently of this sacrament of conversion and reconciliation. Those who go to Confession frequently, and do so with the desire to make progress, will notice the strides that they make in their spiritual lives.\”
All of these concepts and practices were foreign to me as a Lutheran, but now, ten years later as a happy Catholic, I can\’t imagine my life without them. Deo gratias!
© 2013. JoAnna Wahlund. All Rights Reserved.