Archives for February 2010

Walking into the light

Walking Into Light

I was received into the Catholic Church on Sunday! As my new friend Russ might say, I have crossed the Tiber. I have made it to the other bank safe and sound, but the journey continues…

Before Sunday I was a Christian. After Sunday I am still a Christian. What has changed is my full participation in the only Church Jesus founded and in the fullness of faith therein. The path to here was not only one of learning but of rediscovery and exploration of my Christian roots. I am now an enthusiastic part of a community that will stay true to God’s word. I am home.

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

It was a bright, beautiful day. We candidates sat up front with our families and sponsors. The Rite of Reception took place after the Homily and included the Sacrament of Confirmation for those of us who were not already confirmed (that was most of us, including me). Father Paul prayed for each of us with his hands placed upon our heads and anointed us with oil that we may receive the Holy Spirit. Through this simple and touching ceremony we each began our Catholic lives.

The normal Mass continues with the Liturgy of the Eucharist for everyone, including (at last!) us newly confirmed. I chose to receive Communion under both forms, although it is equally valid to receive only one. It is proper to bow in the presence of our Lord as you approach to receive Communion. This is normally done as the person in front of you receives the Eucharist and was certainly my intention. I had carefully gone over this in my head. As things worked out, when I approached no one was in front of me and in my excitement and nervousness I forgot to bow. The respect was 100% in my heart, but I did not receive the sacrament completely as I had intended. We are so new!

After Mass the newly confirmed joined the exit procession and headed to the PLC. It was Donut Sunday, so there were donuts, bagels, coffee, juice, milk, etc. plus a cake in our honor. We all enjoyed this reception and the chance to talk with family and friends. During the months in RCIA, attending Mass, various events, Men’s Fellowship, etc. I made many new friends.

There were other memorable moments too. The applause that welcomed us, friends gently touching my shoulder as they passed for Communion, a surreptitious “thumbs up,” and big smiles all stand out. I did not discover one particularly touching part until I was at home. In the envelope with my confirmation certificate were 2 handmade, personal welcomes from children in our youth classes. Crosses, stars and other adornments decorated them with “George, U Rock!,” “Keep Working!,” “Good Luck!,” “Stay Strong” and signed by the kids. Such a perfect welcome.

The Sacraments


One very important aspect of Catholic life is the belief in, and reception of, the Sacraments. For Catholics, sacraments are gifts from Jesus to strengthen us and deepen our relationship with Him. Through each one, Christ bestows a particular grace, such as incorporation into Christ and the Church, forgiveness of sins, or consecration for a particular service. They are an ongoing part of our journey, bringing us His blessings and great peace.

Sacraments are grouped into 3 areas:

  • Sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist (communion)
  • Sacraments of healing: Reconciliation (confession) and Anointing of the Sick (a “last rite”)
  • Sacraments of vocation: Holy Orders (clergy) and Matrimony (marriage)

The Sacrament of Baptism is often referred to as the gateway to the other sacraments. In it we became Christian, received God’s sanctifying grace, were freed from original sin and (when baptized as an adult) absolved of all personal sins. Catholics recognize the validity of all Christian baptisms as long as the “trinitarian formula” was followed (“I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”).

The Sacrament of Confirmation strengthens and deepens baptismal grace. Through this sacrament the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church. Like baptism, it may be received only once.

The Eucharist is the sacrament in which Catholics partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus and participate directly in his sacrifice. Christ’s sacrifice is represented at each Mass and Catholics with the proper disposition (generally a state of grace) receive Him. This Communion is not as a memorial but is the literal consumption of the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Jesus in order to join ourselves literally as well as spiritually with Him. The bread and wine are so converted (via transubstantiation) at the moment of consecration, exactly as Jesus first did on Holy Thursday. As at the last supper, the Body and Blood continue only in the appearance of bread and wine.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation offers us absolution for our sins, particularly our mortal sins. As with most Protestant faiths, Catholics may be forgiven outside of this sacrament if their private confession to God is an act of perfect contrition. While us sinners may or may not achieve that on our own, the absolution received in Reconciliation is certain. (My earlier posts What harm is a little sin? and Confession, getting out of deep trouble go into more detail.)

Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament of healing of both the soul and the body. It is one of the sacraments given to those in immediate danger of death (often called “last rites” — the others being Reconciliation and Eucharist). However, it is also used to help those with serious illnesses or about to undergo major surgery. Through this sacrament the Holy Spirit renews and strengthens us.

Holy Orders is a sacrament in which Bishops, Priests and Deacons are ordained by a Bishop into their order. This sacrament is licit only when administered by a Bishop in good standing and in the direct line of succession from the Apostles (known as Apostolic Succession).

In the Sacrament of Matrimony God creates a permanent and exclusive bond between a man and a woman. Like holy orders, marriage is a vocation – one in which the couple is called to continually sanctify each other and to raise children by the teachings of the Church. The couple themselves are considered the ministers of this sacrament with their Priest serving as witness. Marriage, like Holy Orders, is joyous but also a very, very serious vocation.

Many things are routine in our daily lives. The Sacraments are extraordinarily exceptional, providing us the opportunity to encounter Christ and receive His blessings. He gives us so much grace…

Bill’s house

Bills House

I was thinking about my neighbor Bill recently when I drove by his house. He and his wife Kathryn moved in 30 years ago right after it was built. Over time Bill added a garage and made other improvements.

I stopped by one summer day in 1999 to check on our new house when it was being completed. Bill had made a nice house number placard affixed to a 4×4 post. He was in his yard using a post hole digger to install it. There is nothing special in all of this, except Bill was 89 at the time! He had made good progress, but hit some rock about 12″ down. I helped him through that. As soon as I again reached dirt, he insisted on finishing the job himself. Bill had a lot of pride in his house and treasured living there.

Bill and Kathryn passed on about 5 years ago. Bill’s house became Mike’s house. Now it is Laura’s house. In God’s eyes it was never really Bill’s house — it was just loaned to him temporarily. We may or may not get to keep our home during our time on earth. We definitely do not get to take it, or anything else, with us

Bill’s house is a metaphor for all of our worldly possessions. Yes, they are important for the physical and financial needs of our families. Yet we are called upon to help others in their time of need too. Always remembering that balance is important.

Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’