Thursday, 31 March 2016.
This past Saturday of the Easter Vigil was my one-year anniversary of being a card carrying Catholic! I cannot believe how quickly the past year has flown by. It goes to show that time flies when you are enjoying a wonderful life filled with the most awesome people!
^Rosary blessed by Pope Francis, courtesy of my dear friend, Fr. Simon 🙂
I decided back in December of 2013 that I wanted to convert to Catholicism. I decided this when I was still inpatient. It may sound cliche but when I was facing the very real possibility of leaving this life I knew I hadn’t been on the right side of my faith in quite a long while. I was no heathen of course, but I just knew I hadn’t made God a priority and I hadn’t lived my life in a way that would have been pleasing to him for at least the past 5 years. That feels pretty awful to admit but it’s the truth.
For as long as I can remember, my mother always had a strong faith which was rooted in the Catholic Church. She is a ‘Cradle Catholic’ as they’re called and every time I went to mass with her growing up (which was not very often because I was raised non-denominational) I could tell how much she loved it. The feeling, the incense, the hymns, she loved everything about Mass. As I’ve come to understand since converting, those things are wonderful and they make a Catholic church feel like home; but it is the Eucharist (the body & blood of Christ) that keeps Catholics coming back.
So back to the part about how I came to converting… Like I said, it was during the first 30 days following my diagnosis that I spent inpatient. I started chemo almost immediately so things got real very quickly. Everyone else was praying for me, everyone we knew we asked to pray and I kept getting messages and cards from people saying they dedicated a Mass for me or lit a candle for me. One card explained that Brother Richard of St. Peter’s Church in Chicago placed a drop of Holy water on a St. Peregrine medal for me and prayed saying, “Dear Jesus, please give total recovery and good health to Laura.” It is quite an honor and also very humbling to be confronted with how much people love you and how much they care.
I wore that medal every day that I was in the hospital and for months afterwards. As I got weaker and thinner it made me feel strong. I received a beautiful rosary from my mother’s sister, Kerry, who is also my God Mother. What I came to realize was that everyone else was praying for me, but I wasn’t praying for myself. My relationship with God had become so distant that I didn’t even talk to him often enough to ask for my own life to be saved. My mom taught me how to pray the rosary (the simple version) and once I started doing that I began to feel at peace.
One night, when I couldn’t sleep and was particularly worried about the treatment I would be getting the following day I began to pray the Our Father. I prayed it over and over again. I felt so small and insignificant in that hospital bed but the more I prayed the stronger I felt. What amazed me was that I not only felt emotionally stronger, but physically. I had the perception that (and I know this sounds strange) if I stood up I would be so tall that I would crash through the ceiling; my bones felt absolutely gigantic. Now I’m sure this was a side effect from one or more of the meds or perhaps it was the sensation of my bone marrow regenerating, but at that moment in time it was exactly what I needed to face the next day.
The next morning when I woke up, it seemed like the first day of the rest of my life. I felt like a kinder more peaceful person. I felt calm and at ease and I knew that even though I had gone astray everything could be different going forward. I prayed to be healed and I had faith for the first time that I would be.
Being Catholic has been a true joy for me, so to experience my first Holy Week was definitely special. My mom and I attended the Holy Thursday Mass and the Good Friday service (which I learned is not a Mass, it is the only day of the year when celebrating Mass is forbidden) and then we went to the Easter Sunday Mass with Matt and two dear friends. It was such an enjoyable day.
Because I am such a newbie to Catholicism, I learn something new probably daily. I don’t recall attending the Good Friday service last year. I can’t remember why we didn’t go, but there were things from this year that I definitely don’t remember happening last year. My favorite part of the service other than Communion was the Adoration of the cross. The priest explained that this is meaningful for several reasons. Because Christ willingly carried the cross on which he would be sacrificed, our adoration of the cross speaks of our willingness to do the same, to pick up our cross and follow him.
The priest also explained that as you approach the cross at the front of the church (similar to how the Communion line works) prepare to leave your problems there at the foot of the cross. Work and school problems, relationship problems, health and money problems, world problems – leave them all there at the cross, Jesus wants to take them from us and relieve our burden. I tried to think of the issues in my own life and as I bent over to kiss the cross and hold it for a moment I felt that I was leaving those issues there and trusting Jesus to take care of me.
Something else I learned was that Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit on March 25th (makes sense since we celebrate his birth on December 25th) and the year of his passion he was sacrificed on March 25th as well. It is rare for Good Friday to fall on March 25th like it did this year. How rare? After researching this I found out that this happened in 1921, 1932, 2005 and now 2016 and it won’t happen again in this century. It is a unique reminder that God’s timing is perfect.
One final thing I learned: During the Holy Thursday service we commemorate the Last Supper and how Jesus interrupted the Passover Seder to perform the washing of the disciple’s feet. It was absolutely unheard of that the Seder would be interrupted, and he did this following the third glass of wine. If you’ve ever attended a Seder you know that there are four glasses of wine and that they all represent something different. You can read more about the details of the Seder dinner here. The Passover meal is not finished as Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives where he is betrayed. What I didn’t know and no one had ever explained to me before, the full meaning of the following verses:
28After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” 29There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. 30When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. John 19:28-30
‘I thirst’ is his expression that he thirsts for Souls – that no one will go to the Father without going through Christ. To me, the meaning of ‘It is finished’ has always been that his passion is complete, that he has set us free from our own sin. But in addition to that – the Passover meal has now been complete. He drank the fourth cup of wine on the cross. Mind blown.
To complete this post I’m going to share a hymn from Easter Sunday that really inspired me.
“What Wondrous Love is This”
1 What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
2 When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.
3 To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM –
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing.
4 And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.
I hope you were all able to spend wonderful time this weekend with friends and family! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and read this post.