Monday, March 28, 2005
Postscript: I still occasionally get mail from those going through RCIA and appreciate it. I am still, here in 2009, a strong, weekly, Mass-attending Catholic. I still read books on the Catholic Faith and continue to learn as much about my faith as I can. After this, my RCIA blog, Eutychus Fell, I continued on with another blog named Lofted Nest which I still occasionally update. I have plans, now and again, to blog my way through some of the larger books I still need to read about Christianity and the Catholic Faith. Blogger has made the use of pictures and media so much easier than it was in 2005... it makes the writer in me itch.
All the best and more to all. -- Eutychus Fell.
First, my great thanks to all Catholic Bloggers; your efforts give a depth of spirit to every week and to events all over the world and back. Thanks also to everyone who has read, commented, emailed, and prayed for me -- some say the Catholic Church doesn't welcome people at the door . . . how wrong they are. I have a lot of work to do going forward, and I hope the base of a year's RCIA will support the good person Christ wants me to be. Blessings and good words to all.
So there you have it. I don't intend to belabor the RCIA process further. The Mystagogia portion, which I will attend, will be covering ground I've already tread upon here. I'll leave this blog site behind for reference (especially my own). Thanks to all who have commented and supported me through this journey... your help and welcome made a large impression on me. I'll post some of the key points of RCIA below (I tried to leave out the 2004 election) and other entries I think worthwhile to those becoming or thinking of becoming Catholic. Anyone with any RCIA questions, feel free to email.
Pre-Catechumenate - Easter Vigil 2004 - Beyond Rebellion - Population Control - Hail Mary - Suicide - Fetal Reduction - Stranger in a Strange Land - A Church of Scripture - Respecting the Alter - Straw Mass & Relics - Mothers' Day Sermons - Surprised by Joy - Productive Prayer - The One True King - Your Local Church - What do you want from God? - Ascension Sunday - Humanae Vitae - Ready? - Discernment - Sexual Appetite - Heaven Dipping Down - Rite of Acceptance - First RCIA Class - Jesus at the Well - Milly Kondracke - Outward Signs - Suffering - The Sermon on the Plain - Catholic School - Marriage - Dismissal - Straw Mass & St. Francis - The Great Pumpkin - Christopher Reeve - Dismissal & Lepers - Immaculate Conception - The Seven Sacraments - A Soldier has a Choice - Unfocused - Hard Teachings - The Sex Abuse Scandal - The Eucharist - Penance Service - Healing and Reconciliation - Holy Days of Obligation - Television - Life in Christ - Too Much at Once - Catholic Morality - Taking it Seriously - Psychics and Sundays - The Ten Commandments - A Tree Grows in Phoenix - Conscience Feeding - Wide Awake - A Just War - The Sexth Commandment - Bill Moyers - Retire the Pope? - Is Humanae Vitea Infallible? - Getting Nervous - Lent Begins: Ash Wednesday - The Order of the Mass - Why Catholicism - Real Presence - The Stations of the Cross - Lucia of Fatima Dies - Pieta Prayers - Terri Schiavo - Purgatory - Rite of Sending - Rite of Election - Reconciliation - The Woman at the Well - The First Scrutiny - The Blind Man - The Second Scrutiny - The Raising of Lazarus - The Third Scrutiny - Palm Sunday - Chrism Mass - Holy Thursday - Good Friday - My Easter Vigil - Easter Sunday: Resurrection - Mystagogia
Sunday, March 27, 2005
I've been unable to find an image of the Resurrection that I like. The Bible informs so many paintings, but not the Resurrection; how can you paint a mystery? Oh, well, the Shroud, yes, but that's more an image of the Crucifixion, isn't it. I want a painting that combines the Genesis story, "Let There Be Light," and the Salvation story, "I Am the Light." I want a painting where the Magi, adoring the babe, somehow blend and shift into the women at the empty tomb. I want Christ erupting from the Star of Bethlehem. I want too much, obviously, and that's why I can't find it.
Galia Finker's painting, above, called "Light and Darkness," may not have anything to do with the Resurrection, but somehow I see in the image an idea of the Son slipping back into place with the Father and the Holy Spirit. I see Creation amid Darkness. I like the arms of the Son, crossed for a blessing, the blue of baptismal water and the rusty color of blood. I like the little smile on the face of the Father, the hint of femininity in the face of the Holy Spirit and the way the three figures begin to fit together as one. I like all those things, perhaps none of which were the artist's intent, but does that matter?
What matters is Easter, new life where once was only death, and I hope all who read this will have a joyous day. Thanks to all who have prayed for me and wished me well. You're words are most appreciated.
Angels and Mary Magdalene encounter Jesus at his tomb on Easter morning.
Our Easter Vigil began by a bonfire, outside. The weather was cool and cloudy, but not too cold, and the fire chased away the cool. The upbaptized Elect were in brown robes with old clothes or sweats underneath. We Candidates (already baptized) wore our normal Sunday best. We were all in the front row of the fire-watchers and the rest of the congregation huddled further out where the shadows danced around the darkness. We all caught the eyes of loved ones out in the crowd and watched embers rise from the burning logs to float on air above our heads. Father blessed the fire, said prayers over a four-foot tall Easter candle and cut figures into the wax: the Cross, Alpha and Omega, the year of the Lord 2005.
Our priest then lit and lifted the heavy candle and led us all on a short walk back to the church sanctuary which was in total darkness. Now and then, amid the silence and occasional crackle of the bonfire behind us, Father would chant, "Christ our Light," and we would answer, "Thanks be to God." Inside, the alter boys lit candles from the Easter candle Father held, then each person lit his or her candle from theirs. Soon, the dark church was lit by candlelight. Father then chanted a very, very long prayer called the Exsultet (thanks, Jim). We blew out our candles and the church lights were turned up. It was time for the Vigil readings. Each reading was followed by a psalm-sing and a short prayer.
- Genesis 1:1 - 2:2
- Genesis 22:1-18
- Exodus 14:15 - 15:1
- Isaiah 54:5-14
- Isaiah 55:1-11
- Baruch 3:9-15, 32 - 4:4
- Ezekiel 36:16-28
- Romans 6:3-11
Our priest then gave what I think now was the best Homily I've heard him give. I'll have to ask him if he's written it down. I'll try to paraphrase. Father always starts with a silly joke that almost never has anything to do with the homily. Today he told the joke about the man who wrote the song "Hokey Pokey" having died but they couldn't get him into the casket, everytime they put his left foot in, it would go back out.
Note: I'm sure many people have heard homilies and sermons similar to this about the Hokey Pokey (I see there are several on the Internet, now that I search), but I had not.
Father then went on to talk about how hard it must be for Pope John Paul II to sit this one out, after all his years of presiding over the Easter Triduum, he now sits out and lets God's will rule his life. Similarly, Terri Schaivo's parents have been told by the government that she is not allowed to take communion this Easter, she's sitting this one out as well. Not only does our government tell our kids they can't pray in school, now they tell people when they can and can't celebrate communion. Small battles are waging in the world, but the war has already been won. Jesus died on the Cross for us and we'll ride his coattails into paradise. Oh, we'll have our little battles, our own personal battles with sin, but the war is over and that's what we're celebrating tonight.
It was all much better than I've written it.
After the homily, we sang a Litany of the Saints and Father blessed the new waters of the baptismal font. Seven people were baptized, two girls, four women, and one little kindergarten boy. One by one, the people climbed into the font and knelt with the water up to their waist. Father took a large pitcher and three times poured the full amount on their heads, saying "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The baptized climbed out soaked and barefoot in their brown robes -- their sponsors wrapped them in large white towels. Everyone was smiling and happy and they left to get dressed.
Now it was everyone else's turn to renew their baptismal promises. Father waved a pine branch dipped in water through the church, hitting everyone with drops as reminders of our baptism. Then we all re-lit our candles and renewed our vows of baptism.
The newly baptized returned, dried and changed, in white robes. We joined them up front with our sponsors' right hand on our right shoulders. We who were coming in from other faiths said, "I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God." Then each sponsor presented his or her charge, saying "I present so-and-so
Father wanted some of us to bring the gifts to the alter, so I went to the rear of the church and carried in the water and wine, another newbie carried in the basket for money, and another carried the bread. We new members were first to receive. Father asked that we receive on our tongues, so we all did, and we all received the Blood of Christ, as well. The Heavens were not opened for me, but I did feel wonderfully warm as a knelt with my new brothers and sisters. We were all smiles and handshakes. He is risen indeed, within us all.
After Mass, a small reception was prepared for us in the Parish Hall, there was a nice cake for each of us to take home and more cake and punch and gifts and cards for each of us. My sponsor gave me John Paul II's "An Invitation to Joy" and a small Catholic prayer book. Outside, the bell in our small bell tower rang out, announcing Easter to the world.
Here I sit, at 2:00 in the morning, unable to sleep. A big day, Easter. If a bit of joy can offset the suffering of Terri Schiavo or Pope John Paul II, I will happily provide my measure.
A blessed Easter to you all.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Growing up, I recited The Apostle's Creed and not The Nicene Creed. It's the Apostles Creed that says Jesus descended into Hell after his death on the cross. I don't believe I ever heard a Methodist Minister give a sermon on Christ's descent into Hell, perhaps I have and don't remember, but the Catholic Faith seems more than willing to discuss the matter:
Despite the joy I anticipate this evening, many reasons feed a great sadness today. The Apostles huddled in fear, disconsolate, on this day. Unlike the protesters in Florida, the Apostles were afraid for their lives and the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out over them. While Christ's Church lay huddled in each others' arms, He became light in the darkness of Death. When Jesus died, existence flipped for a time: darkness came over the Earth and light filled the realms of the dead.
I seek the same reversal this evening when the host touches my tongue. Not that light leave the earth, but enter my life.
Friday, March 25, 2005
He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.
And our second reading was from Hebrews 4:
we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Then, for the Gospel reading, we had a full reading of the Passion from John 18 & 19, with different people reading the parts and our priest reading for Christ.
After a short homily on the opening images of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," (where Jesus is tempted and passes the test where Adam failed) we had a very, very long series of prayers for the Church, for the Pope, for the clergy, for those preparing for baptism and entry into the church (ME!), for the Jewish people, for those who don't believe in Christ, for those who don't believe in God, for all those in public office (how about those judges!), for the men and women in the military, etc. It was a long time to kneel.
Next up, the veneration of the cross. Three teenagers brought a large cross up to the alter made of good sized logs. Everyone in the church then filed up to the alter and bowed and kissed the cross. This was a slow process as every person took their time and was respectful.
Finally, we celebrated Holy Communion. Father went to the side room where he had put the Host on Holy Thursday and brought it out. We did not have the Blood of Christ, just the Body and then the Host was returned again to the side room. We filed out in silence once more. This service, too, was nearly two hours long and tomorrow night, when we join the church, the Easter Vigil will be well over three hours. I can well believe that many would consider a week of attendance at the Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday Mass, Good Friday Service, and the Easter Vigil Mass followed by Easter Sunday Mass as excessive... but this is serious business. This is the celebration of God's victory over sin, this is the central theme of Christianity and the central mystery of salvation. One wonders if the end of time, the final judgement, will be any more of a serious business than this. "Left Behind" be tossed, the final war is already won. Why wait to celebrate until we're dead?
Thursday, March 24, 2005
This image of Christ washing the feet of his disciples is by Leszek Forczek from a series. You can see more in this series by clicking on the picture.
I have managed, somehow, to avoid going to church on Holy Thursday and tonight was my first attendance at a foot washing, in any faith. Our RCIA instructors didn't make attendence mandatory at Chrism Mass and Holy Thursday and Good Friday, but they strongly recommended we go so we can learn more about the Easter Triduum.
The Mass was long, nearly two hours long. Our priest came in with many alter boys and incense was swung all around the oils the Bishop blessed at the Chrism Mass. The oils were near the alter on three different pedistals. Our readings were from Exodus 12 concerning the Passover, from 1st Corinthians 11 concerning the Last Supper, and from John 13 concerning Jesus washing the Apostles feet. Our priest processed down every aisle, back and forth, with the Gospels held high and incense waving before him before approaching the alter to read from John.
Father's homily was about how we don't replay the last supper at every Mass, we join in the original event. Receiving communion makes us different -- we become what we eat. Father said our world is a broken place, our church is a broken church, but we come together when we share in the body and blood of Christ. He mentioned Terri Schiavo and that she, too, joins with us through her past communions. Father mentioned how the law in Florida won't allow an animal to be starved or tortured by removing its water -- but look at our world, at our country allowing, actually demanding, that this woman suffer and die. (I saw many shaking their heads in agreement and disbelief at the cruelty being visited on Mrs. Schiavo.) We are better than this, Father said, we are different from this. We should focus on being Christlike, not just better than others. We are all invited to join Christ and we can either accept Him or reject Him. If we accept we need to go to regular confession, pray regularly, go to Mass regularly and become better people.
After the homily, twelve people, previously chosen, retrieved chairs and sat up front, facing the congregation. Our priest removed his vestments and rolled up his sleeves and washed each of their feet. Father never left his knees, but crawled along the floor, dragging a bowl, between the people. This, the crawling, was very effective for me and I could imagine the scene with Christ in place of our priest. Those chosen, young and old, men and women, were sober and dignified. All of them and our priest let the actions speak for themselves; none of it was belabored and it was really more powerful than I had imagined it would be.
After the foot washing, we held a normal mass. Normal, anyway, until the end when Father gathered up all of the host and put it away in containers instead of in the Tabernacle. When he had gathered all the host, an alter boy wrapped a gold stole with a red cross on the back around the priest. Our priest then wrapped the ends of the stole around the containers of the Host as if to honor and protect the Body of Christ. Then the alter boys with incense and candles led Father through every aisle among the congregation before placing the containers in a side room. After Mass we were instructed to be completely silent in the Church until the Easter Vigil, so we filed out without a word being spoken.
Earlier today I mentioned that the Agony in the Garden better defined the day for me, considering the events in Florida . . . but one has to wonder how the call to servitude, if allowed to be heard, would alter those events.
Maundy Thursday ('Maundy' means 'Command' as in Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another) is mostly associated with Jesus washing the feet of his Apostles, showing them what it means to be a true servant. But Holy Thursday is also when Christ suffered the Agony in the Garden (which is the title of Gauguin's painting above). Perhaps because I'm reading Emmerich's "The Dolorous Passion" or perhaps because we are all so focused on the events surrounding the starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo in Florida, but for whatever reason, the Agony calls out to me more this year than the Washing of Feet.
Anne Catherine Emmerich describes Jesus as a true scapegoat in the Garden of Gethsemani, sinless, but taking on all sins. She has Christ alone, his Apostles nearby, but asleep, as Satan taunts Him with the sins of all Mankind. The images of all of the sins of the world from the beginning to the end flood into Jesus and He understands completely the burden He must take on for us... for me. Satan dances around out of reach saying, "Who can take all these sins on, surely not you, you can't even stop your own disciples from sinning." If the image sounds like it came from the opening of Gibson's "The Passion" that's because Gibson's script was informed by this book.
It would be easy to compare the Apostles sleeping while Christ suffers the Agony with so many, today, ignoring the starvation of Terri Schiavo. But that comparison is really too simple. So very many people are praying today, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you." So many, too, are adding "Yet your will, not mine, be done." Perhaps it is throwing stones to point out the sin of what is being done in Florida (yet another sin heaped upon the Agony of Christ) and yet ignore the weight each of us has added to the burden on the Cross.
The Agony in the Garden is one of the sorrowful mysteries. The death of Terri Schiavo will not be a mystery: we see the cause, the decisions, and the result, even if we don't understand the purpose. What can our response be, this Maundy Thursday? I think, when our representatives are having our priest wash their feet this evening, I will be quiet and still -- like a sleeping Apostle, unaware of the scope of sins falling on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. I don't know what else to do.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
I decided to enter RCIA and started this Blog on March 8, 2004. On March 20, 2004, Pope John Paul II put to rest twenty years of debate concerning the Catholic response to Persistent Vegetative State (PVS). I am disregarding in this comment all arguments about whether Terri Schiavo is in that state because the Pope's teaching concerns anyone who is unable to exercise their highest functions of consciousness and that fits Terri Schiavo's current state. I didn't decide to become Catholic in order to argue with the Pope. I wasn't born a Catholic and I don't have the desire or the knowledge to guide The Church down paths of my own, ill-formed conscience. I decided to become Catholic, or was led to become Catholic, because I saw the Catholic Church as a defender of the same Truth and Life that other Christian demoninations are no longer defending. I didn't decide to become Catholic to be a Christian warrior against the Rome our world is becoming.
How do I feel? For most of the 2000 years of Christianity, Terri Schiavo would not have survived the past fifteen years. For most of my life, until March 20, 2004, I would not have wanted to survive myself in a state like Terri Schiavo. Now I am called to defend her life, a life I wouldn't want, a life past Christians most likely could not have envisioned. And so I defend her life, I alter my own belief and decide that I, too, and my family, must live if ever such a state comes to us. The only comfort in this is the belief that it is God's will that Men suffer. It is God's will that Christians be apart and call others to follow. Well, here we are: apart. Here we are praying for God to somehow turn this tragedy into something good and holy.
We learned in RCIA that Holy means "separated," means "apart from the world." How do I feel watching Terri Schiavo pass away before my very eyes? I feel Holy. I feel Holy and it comes with an unaccustomed weight.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
After the homily, four deacons brought the oil from the back of the Cathedral to the alter. The oil was held in large, glass jugs. Another deacon carried a smaller glass jar of balsam. The Bishop then mixed balsam in with the oil and blessed the oils. It was hard to see, but I didn't see him make any extra effort to breathe over the oils beyond standing over them and saying the prayers. At the moments of blessing, all of the many priests raised their right hands for the blessings.
After the oils were blessed and taken away for us to pick up later, a regular Mass began. Regular, that is, in form but not in spirit because forty priests and a bishop holding Mass is a sight! The Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of Power, God of might) was warm and full and lofty with the choir in the great Cathedral. The many priests mirrored the motions of the Bishop when he held the body and then the blood of Christ aloft. Priests went off in pairs to all corners of the church to offer the Eucharist. We still in RCIA were blessed since we're still four days away from partaking ourselves in the body and blood of Christ.
After Mass, the assigned delegates of each church found their way to the room where each church's oils had been poured into each church's containers. We packed ours up and our priest found us and took the bottles home. The entire Chrism Mass was, I believe, under an hour and half long. The music and people and sights and smells were uplifting, full of mystery, and interesting. As with the Rite of Election, I got the feeling that the priests truly enjoy these times when they can all be together and share in the same event. I saw so many smiling, joking, laughing and joyous priests walking about afterward. I enjoyed it all.
Update: As proof that priests enjoy the Chrism Mass get together, witness Catholic Rage Monkey.
Update: According to NewsMax, Senator Santorum is calling Whittenmore's ruling "Judicial Tyranny." The weakness of Congress is evident in their name-calling. The Florida Judges ignored the subpoena Congress issued, as well.