Monday, January 19, 2009

A Place at the Table

So why the Catholic Church? Shortly after I was received, a friend opined that we would have joined the local Presbyterian church, had they been nicer to use when we visited.

Not exactly.

In fact, the Presbyterians were exquisitely friendly, as welcoming Southerners can be, and I knew more of them. A nicer group of people you’d never hope to meet. It was something more than fellowship that drove me.

I’d like to say that my coming home to Rome was a theological imperative. I’d like to think that I was so convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith that I couldn’t spend another day away from it. The truth is much less impressive, a little embarrassing, and in the end, so much more miraculous because it led to all the rest.

I simply needed a place to take communion every week. I was prepared to commit by an act of sheer will to whatever Rome might require of me, just to get back to communion.

My love affair with the Eucharist actually started way back in my solidly Protestant youth. My family were more than Christmas and Easter Methodists, but attendance at church could be sporadic. I loved those times when we were there for the first Sunday in the month, when our little church had its communion service. Back in those days we knelt, passing cubes of bread and tiny cups of grape juice, at the altar rail, on which was carved “Do This In Remembrance of Me.” Even then, even there, even at the age of nine or ten, I felt something tugging at me as I did something so obviously out of the ordinary to remember this Christ I had never seen.

Fast forward a few years to high school , when I wandered into a beautiful, pre-Vatican II church in which Mass was being celebrated. Intrigued, I came in, sat down, and followed along. When it came time to come forward for communion, not knowing any better, I went forward too. Being a quick study, I did just exactly what the person beside me did. I was struck by how very special it was, how different from my own church, how utterly sacred and completely extraordinary it all seemed, how worshipful.

Like most young people, I would fall away from that sense of worship during college, and even in the early years of my marriage. True to pattern, however, when our first child was born, my husband and I realized that we needed to find a faith in which to raise him, and we went about it in a most scientific way. Finding a few Episcopalians in the family tree, not being spontaneous enough for most Protestant worship, and considering the fact that we lived practically next door to an Episcopal church, that’s where we landed. We would spend the next twenty years in high-church orthodox Anglicanism in all its richness and beauty. It was there I learned to love and to depend on the Eucharist.

I had no idea how that love would change when I finally came into the Catholic faith. All I knew was that I needed the liturgy, the word, the Eucharist, the sending forth to anchor my week. The year I spent “between communions” was a great personal desert. My heart had already left the Episcopal Church, and so I could not in conscience receive there (though they would not have excluded me), but I was not yet part of Rome and thus, not invited to the table. I was at once was the closest of relatives and the most distant of strangers. If nothing else, it taught me that no one comes to Lord’s Table by right, only by grace, and to be so very thankful for that grace

And to be thankful seventy times seven for a Church that makes it available to me every single day, not just once a month or once a year. For a Church that assures me with authority of the very Presence of Christ every time I go to Mass, and invites me to take Him in and take Him forth. As I spend more time with Christ in the Mass and receive Him in the Eucharist, I know I made the right choice.

Those reflections of Christ in the communion services of my youth ultimately drew me away from symbols to Christ Himself. I came home.

1 comment:

  1. I too was drawn to my friendships in the Presbyterian church, & to their desire for me to continue teaching SS yet at their church.
    Yet when I learned their so-called communion was only about 4Xs/year and was not considered His body & blood I too had a serious quandary.