Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Christmas present came at Easter this year

To anyone who knows me, you know the last year has been marked by great loss. Enough to keep me from blogging through much of it. But God is faithful, especially when the cross is near to us, and I know that. Last summer before Greg, my brother died, I had a conversation with a friend. In it I invited her to join the church.


A little back drop.

Pope Francis had been speaking a lot about how we are supposed to behave as Catholics, and I woke up to the fact I was pretty much failing miserably. Oh sure, I have all the Catholic moves down, but I am a pretty lost soul most days when I am honest with myself ( and P.S. I am always honest with myself). So I decided to make  more of an effort. The worst part about that was that I was pretty certain what to do. I had been getting this nagging feeling for a while that Jesus wanted me to invite Chrissy into the church. I had been ducking behind the "its none of my business" cover every time the thought came into my head. But if I listened to what the Pope was saying, that wasn't really all right. At some point I would be held accountable for that ( you know, the whole 'what I have done, and what I have failed to do' part) So, I decided to I would summon the courage and have the conversation the next chance I got.

And I did. I stumbled through it awkwardly,but I spit the words out. I told her if she needed any help if she did decide to join, I would be there. I walked away from it hoping I didn't sound like the biggest wing nut on the planet. But Chrissy was gracious and said she'd think about it.

And then Greg got sicker, and the conversation faded from my mind along with the sting of feeling foolish. And the days of his life came to an end. And in the midst of grief, it can be hard to find God, not because he is far, but because He is so painfully close. Mid-September he passed. By the following Sunday after a week of painful goodbyes, we were back home. Mindlessly I clicked on my facebook page and saw the message light come on. A note from Chrissy read as follows:

How are you holding up? We have been thinking if you. I started my RCIA classes last Thursday..

I stared at those words endlessly. Jesus might as well have written them himself, they impacted me so strongly. And I thought back to the conversation and scratched my head wondering to myself, did Jesus really work like that? Through my stumbling words, and awkward invitation? Was that possible? And so, cynically I told myself not to get my hopes up, and that time alone would tell. But inside, it felt like Him.

Before Greg died we had a short conversation one afternoon. He wondered if I thought he had changed his life enough to make it to heaven. I told him he had reconciled with everyone, and had the sacraments faithfully, and that yes I believed he was ready. Greg loved the Eucharist, and in that conversation I promised him I would remember him at the table and that I really believed I would be united with him at every mass. He asked me to promise to remember him at communion time. I told him I would.

And I got busy back at life, and school, and sports, and activities while the ache was healing in my heart. And every once in a while Chrissy would mention something more. Or she'd ask a question about the rosary, or the catechism, and each time it caught me off guard as she kept walking forward. She was so quiet and sincere, her questions so thoughtful. I finally told Fred and the kids that the biggest Christmas present I could ask for in a year of so much sadness, was for Chrissy to enter the church. Christmas came and went.

At the end of January she asked me to be her sponsor.

I wanted to say "No, absolutely not! What is the matter with you Chrissy! You have good examples of  Catholic folks all around you every day, I am a disaster.You just don't realize it." But I thought of what I told her last summer "If there is anything I can do to help you, if you decide to join, I will be there for you." Babysitting while she went to classes would have felt more my speed, but I hadn't made that clear. So I said yes. And then we began walking together towards Christ. And there were entrance rites, and scrutinies, and examinations- things was getting serious.

 The love in her heart grew. Her sons and husband all supported every step she took.They were happy for her and excited, and my own family prayed for her regularly and they too were excited. and because she is so genuine it became contagious and renewed my own weak faith. She loved Pope Francis, and we were both inspired by his example, and exchanged articles, and movies, and conversations about saints.

Last night Chrissy became Catholic along with a dozen others in her parish. In the midst of a three hour glorious ceremony, led by a holy, humble priest who was a convert himself, she entered the church.  When she received holy communion  my heart felt such joy, and I thought of Greg and I spoke to him about the seed that had been planted those months before. He felt close to me last night, and healthy, and at peace. As Easter morning settled in, I realized Jesus had given me a belated Christmas present.

For the last few days Chrissy has tried to "Thank me" repeatedly, for helping her along on her journey
( which has just really begun today). And I kept losing the ability to tell her she had it all backwards. She wasn't seeing it for what it really was. It was I, who should be thanking her! But that would have sounded so sappy and pious unless you knew the whole background. As you can see, its a long story. But now, Chrissy, you know. So, welcome to the Catholic Church dear friend. Thank you for your gift of faith. May it continue to bless those around you, as it has already blessed me.

Its a very Happy Easter for me, and also a  very, very, Merry Christmas.

He is Risen.


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