Monday, April 29, 2013

I am going to bore you to tears

Let's face it.  No one really wants to hear conversion stories.  Mine are exciting to me... but I am pretty sure they aren't that exciting to YOU.

I feel lonely in this, to be honest.  I want to just sit in a puddle of tears and tell you all about how different I feel today.  How today is completely different from, say, the day before yesterday.  How I feel like I am going to crawl the walls if I can't somehow let this joy out.  I just want to cry for joy.

I went to church this morning.  I felt exactly the way one would going to see their Beloved.  My heart was racing.  My stomach in knots.  I could not believe how excited I was to walk in, knowing that today I would get to take communion.  Today, tomorrow, the next day, forever.  And I do believe, forever.  I don't know what theology says about this, but I am imagining that in Heaven we are in a perpetual state of Communion with Jesus.  Isaiah describes it.  So does the book of Revelation.

I soaked up the words of scripture.  The prayers.  Today is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena.  It is said that at the end of her life, she stopped eating all food except the bread of the sacrament... and it kept her alive.  I believe it.

The prayers.  The joy in my heart.  And finally it was time to go forward and join, once and for all, my friends at the daily Mass.

After the service a nun, who is a regular at Mass, came over to say that tomorrow she is traveling to India, but that she was overjoyed to get to see me take communion after all the months I have sat there, day in day out, watching everyone else receive.  Days upon days, weeks upon weeks, for months, for years, forever have I longed.  I have longed for so long.

I have longed for so long, not even knowing what it was I was longing for.  

But now, finally, I understand.

Today is the day.

And tomorrow.  And forever.

God, I can't believe the joy.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blissed out

The service today was beautiful.  Ancient and new, as St. Augustine would say.  Both ancient and new and full of love and joy.  There were two of us being received into the Church... and 4 others being confirmed with us.  So the two of us were called up first to profess our faith.  I had been practicing so I wouldn't trip over the words.   And then the rest of the candidates came forward and joined us facing the priest.  One by one he went down the line and was introduced to each of us by our sponsor, using our chosen name.  Mine is Elizabeth John.  It was only this morning that I realized that it is the name of my father and his sister.  My intent, of course, was John the Baptist and his mother, Elizabeth.  I honor them because I was so late in coming to recognize Jesus for who he was... but Elizabeth and John knew the moment that pregnant Mary walked into their home.  John lept for joy in his mother's womb.  Mary wasn't even showing yet.

Father put his hands on our heads and prayed for the Holy Spirit to enter us.  As I stood there, I actually did feel the Spirit.  I was trembling and felt a little faint.  My head was swimming, but not in a frightening way.  I felt like I was riding a wave of energy towards the Eucharist.  After we were confirmed, I went to the back of the church and helped carry the wine back for communion.  I handed it to Father, bowed, and returned to my seat.

I was the first invited to receive.  I took my time.  I walked to Father.  Rachel, he said, the body of Christ, and placed a consecrated host into my upturned palm.  I lifted my hands to my mouth and took the host on my tongue.  Then I stepped to the side and stood in front of the woman holding the cup.  She raised it to me and said 'the blood of Christ.' She expected me to take it, but for a moment I just looked into her eyes.  We both recognized the wonder of that moment... the moment of my first taste of the blood of Christ.  I lifted the cup and took at taste, then turned and walked back to my seat.  From that point on, the rest is a blur.

Later though, when I was home, I reflected on the miracle that had taken place today.  I have felt a sense of warm love all day, like Jesus really and truly is in me.  Like he is with me in a different way.  And I can hardly believe my good fortune that tomorrow morning I get to do it all over again.  Tomorrow and every day.  To God be the glory.


This is the homily that Fr. Friederichs preached for our confirmation

Confirmation, like every sacrament, celebrates something special happening between God and the individuals receiving the sacrament. In this case, we are celebrating because these six people have chosen to leave themselves open for the Spirit of God to touch them in a way that will make it possible for them to live like Jesus. Basically, by presenting yourselves today, Nick, Rawson, Jack, Glenn, Rachel and Vincent, you are making yourself available for God to do good –and maybe even great— things in you as a follower of Jesus and a member of the Catholic Church. Because you are making yourself available that way, this is a great day for you, for the church, for our parish, and even for God. You are giving God a gift –the gift of yourselves-- today even as God gives you the gift of Jesus’ Spirit. This wonderful and personal exchange of gifts is certainly a reason to celebrate.

Our scriptures for today shed light on why we are celebrating as we are. Actually, the scriptures we just heard aren’t specially chosen for Confirmation today. They are the usual readings for this Sunday. But they are perfect for the occasion. They are perfect because they speak about three important aspects of living as a confirmed Christian.

First of all they remind us that God’s care for us is for keeps: God’s dwelling is with the human race….they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God,” the second reading tells us. In other words, God will stay with us through thick and thin, whether we feel it or not; whether we walk away or not. God is no quitter when it comes to loving us. That message is precisely what the anointing means that you will receive in a few minutes. The anointing says that you are consecrated to God and God is committed to you.
That same reading also has God saying, “Behold I make all things new.” That’s good news for us. God takes us and the events of our lives and keeps re-shaping them. God keeps picking up the pieces of our lives and uses them to keep us connected with God. In other words, God works with us to maximize our strengths and to minimize our failures. That’s something to celebrate.

Our first reading reflects the challenge of Confirmation. Leaving yourselves available to God won’t always be easy. The text says, “It is necessary to undergo hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” The words “Entering the kingdom of God” are what we might call a code “for aligning our hearts and our lives with the heart of God.” Aligning our hearts with God’s comes at a price. It involves compassion and forgiveness. It insists on reverence for each person and all of life. It requires giving God priority in our lives. It means resisting patterns and values contrary to those of Jesus. Lots of people and patterns in our world will tell us it is foolish to try to align our hearts with God’s heart. So it will require courage and commitment to live by the example of Jesus. That too is what the anointing symbolizes; the strength that only God’s spirit can give us to be strong enough to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Our third text is the gospel. In it Jesus, couldn’t be any clearer. He tells us, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Those words, too, are a challenge. But they are also an encouragement because they make clear that he gives us his love before he asks us to give ours. In other words, his love for us will give us the strength and courage to love the way he loves. It’s a lifelong learning process, this loving as Jesus loves. Your confirmation is a key step in that process, offering you a deeper share in the Spirit of Jesus so you can love like him, more and more, with the passing each day.

This deeper share in his Spirit that you receive today is surely something to celebrate. And so celebrate we do today, as you make yourself available to the Spirit of Jesus. Today we pray with you and for you that you will keep making yourself available for the Spirit of Jesus for the rest of your lives. If you do, it will make all the difference in the world for you. In fact, it will make all the difference in the world, period!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

He knew

 5 years ago, my sister in law died of complications following a mastectomy.  It was right before Holy Week.    I remember going to the funeral Mass at St. Kevin's in Warwick.  My older sister in law took me aside and mentioned that I should not take communion.  I was very upset by this.  During the mass, when the time for communion came, my sons and I went up to the front and crossed our arms in front of us so we could receive a blessing.  Emmett didn't understand, though, and accidentally took the host.

Last night, my brother in law, Tu, reminded me of that day.  I knew, he said, that you were longing for communion.  I knew then that someday you would be a Catholic.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I shared with my priest my fears and doubts.  He listened very attentively, sifting through my words for signs of God's Grace.  I am bereft, I said, that I might never again take communion with my sons.  It brings me grief that I will no longer be a member of their church.  I am afraid that maybe I have made this choice of my will, not my Father's.  I am asking God to be clear, to reassure me that it is HIS will that I am obeying, not mine.  If that is so, then I can be at peace, even in the grief and doubt.

And you, Father, listened earnestly.  You listened and then spoke.  And your words were full of Grace.  That the breakup of our family's faith is a reflection of the sin of the church in shattering the Body of Christ.  That our little family is a microcosm of the centuries that the Church has been broken... into pieces ever smaller and more fragmented.  But, you said, just as the breaking is true of the Body, so is the fact that it cannot be entirely broken... The body does have union, if not full union.  And when I go to the altar for your Body and Blood, Lord, I will be praying that I am also in union with my sons and husband, who receive you in another time, another place, another church... but it is still your body, now and forever.  I will rest in that.  And for the rest of my life, pray for unity in my family and in the church.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I went to the Vespers service today at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament.  It was great timing, as I have been struggling lately with doubts.  Am I doing the right thing?  Is this really what God wants?  Is he REALLY calling me, or is this all a figment of my imagination?

As I looked at the beautiful church and listened the psalms being sung in Latin, I thought that maybe my upcoming confirmation is like a marriage that my Father has arranged for me.  I am the nervous bride who doesn't really know my betrothed all that well, but I know my Beloved is from a good family and that it will please my Father to marry him, so I am going to trust that, as is often the case with marriages like this, I will grow to love with a passion and depth I can't yet imagine.  This is the marriage my Father has arranged, and though I am frightened, I am also willing.  And to take the metaphor a bit farther, I am, in a sense, leaving my family, too.  I am leaving my church family for a new one.  I will go back for visits, but things will never be the same.  It is at once glorious and bittersweet.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


It is coming up fast.  Next weekend I am going to be confirmed.  Jesus, it's me and you.  Wherever you want to lead, I will follow.  Whatever you ask, I will do my best to say YES.  My soul is leaping for joy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sweet blessing

I need all the prayer I can get these days.  Every one of them lifts me out of the dark places.  Every whisper to God inches me closer.  In church today I was on the list of those who are going to be confirmed.  Our names were read aloud and I felt my heart leap when mine was called.  This is the same parish that prays daily for Mali, Syria and Afganistan and other places of war.  I am a country at war, too.  There are skirmishes in my heart every day.  Some days Holiness and Light break through.  Sometimes the darkness wins.  God is always at work, though.  On the light days he breathes joy into my heart and lifts me with Grace and speaks softly in my ear.  From the darkness I cast a line towards him, hoping to catch on so I can pull towards him.  And when, in my weakness, I cannot pull anymore, he reels the line for me, with forgiveness and love.

I need prayer these days.  

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I actually can't tell if I am tired or depressed or just wanting to be alone to recharge with Christ.  I don't want to see anyone.  I don't want to do anything but stay in my room and read.  I am having to drag myself to work and even to drumming class lately... and tonight seems the worst yet.  I don't want to talk on the phone or read my email. None of it.

Just lie in my bed with the covers up to my chin and rest.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Nguyen and I got married in the Unitarian Church.  Although we had words of scripture read, we did not have a Christian wedding.

So, in preparation for my confirmation this month, we are going to have our wedding blessed by the Church. Which meant that we needed to get the details of Nguyen's baptism.  (Mine was easy:  Grace Church, Providence, Pentecost, 2006.)

Imagine, then, that we had to reconnect with a church in a small town in the mountains of Vietnam.  And imagine our surprise and delight that in that beautiful cathedral, the evidence of my husband's baptism still exists, 50 years and one war later.  His parents, along with their Christian names, his God parents, the name of the priest... .it is all there.

And although to some people this all might seem like an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, to me it has been a sweet and wonderful adventure.  A way to connect to my husband's past.  His roots.  And a way to get his family involved, too, as they were instrumental in making this all happen.

To me, having the words 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' added to our wedding after nearly 25 years is a joy and a blessing.  And I think it means we get a second honeymoon, right?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Tarot readers and fortune tellers cannot save you

So said Pope Francis at a recent morning mass.

(See the story here.)

Having been a tarot reader prior to becoming a Christian, I concur 100%.

It's not that I didn't want to help people.  My goal was always to point to the divine in their lives and give my clients insight into their complicated situations.   

But even so, I was often taken aback by how much power the clients gave the reader.  "Should I leave my husband?" "Should I have an affair with the man in my office?"  "Should I take this job or fly to Reno or put my kids in private school or begin a liquid weight loss diet?"

No matter how much I tried, it seemed that most of my clients wanted someone, anyone, to tell them how to live their lives.

I remember that for a short time after becoming a Christian, I continued my practice of reading cards for clients.  My heart was in the right place, I thought.  I always sought God in the readings.  I thought I was helping.  But then, little by little, my heart changed.  I began to see that people were treating me as a kind of idol.  The reality was that it wasn't MY intention that was the problem.  It was that I was leading people astray, despite my best intentions.  

So I quit.  I quit my tarot reading job.  Quit reading for friends.  Ultimately I stopped  reading for myself, even.  The scriptures are more than sufficient if I want to try and understand God's will for me.  Pray is sufficient.  I don't need a deck of cards to offer guidance any more.  

Tarot readers cannot save you.  Only through faith in Christ Jesus can you find true life.

Friday, April 05, 2013

conversion of heart

It is an ongoing process that started from my youngest years.  Long before I accepted Jesus into my life, I was seeking to know and love God.  I yearned for him.  And while it is true that I wandered down many paths, the one true path was there all along.

It has been nearly 10 years since my conversion.  I was baptized on September 10, 2003.  Since then I have been on the most amazing ride of my life.   My story with Jesus has been a love story, whispered in the darkness of an empty church, or sung in the beauty of the brilliant sun.  It is a story that has unfolded on bended knees with a broken and contrite heart and in a voice rising up in praise, prayer and thanks.

Always, always, I seek you, O God.  Always I look for you in every situation, in every ruin, every glorious day, every conflict, every sweet kiss.  You are there.

And you have been calling me, yet again.  As you once called me to yourself, then called me from the church of my youth, so again you are calling.  Calling me to the ancient church that you gave to us.  Calling me to yet one more conversion of heart.  And as the day of my confirmation approaches, I am filled with unutterable joy.  My soul leaps like a hart.  I am at once calm and beside myself with excitement.  I will take you, body and blood, into myself and nothing will ever be the same again.