For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ---Ephesians 6:12

"The age of casual Catholicism is over; the age of heroic Catholicism has begun. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead must be Catholics by CONVICTION." ---Fr. Terrence Henry TOR, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Saturday, April 11, 2009

First Communion Tonight

Holy Saturday is usually a day of silence in the Christian world, as it falls between a somber Good Friday and a celebratory Easter Sunday. Churches are usually quiet during the day on Saturday with no celebration of the Eucharist until the evening vigil. And at tonight's Easter Vigil, Catholic converts and reverts all over the world will celebrate Baptism, First Communion, and in most cases Confirmation (except for Catholic reverts like me who get confirmed at Pentecost).

It is expected to be a very emotional event with an indoor pillar of fire amidst a darkened church, followed by several readings from scripture, including psalms, followed by the Holy Sacraments. Most will be getting all three sacraments---the teenagers and a few of the adults. One of our couples renewed their wedding vows this morning, so that means four sacraments in one day for them! Since I have already been baptized in the Catholic faith I will be receiving only one, my first Communion.

I was actually set to have this done in the early 1970's, but for various reasons I did not. At least part of it has to do with my parents being of different denominations. One might think that sort of thing doesn't matter, but it usually means the whole family stays home on Sunday. Enough said on that.

My years in between then and the late 1990's were a journey not too unlike the years St. Augustine wrote about in his autobiography, The Confessions. Though I never joined up with any other religion, I did live according to my conscience only, as if Jiminy Cricket were my mentor. But what the morally relative folks at Disney never told us is that the human conscience becomes quite jaded over time as one ventures further and further into the abyss. In many instances the conscience becomes inverted so that wrong seems right and good seems bad, which is a typical result of gravitating toward what feels good rather than what IS good.

There were tragedies in my life and the lives around me for which I blamed God, and used them as excuses to avoid Him. When a person has little or no foundation in knowledge of The Lord, it becomes easy to blame all the world's troubles on him. And this I did, especially with my own issues.

During the 1990's God reached out to me several times to get my attention, most of which I ignored. But at a cousin's funeral in 2000 at an Episcopal church called St. Monica's (mother of St. Augustine), I took their version of communion which, although mere symbols of body and blood, reminded me of what I never received as a child ---The Holy Eucharist. It was then I decided to start patching things up with our most patient and merciful God.

With several stumbling blocks along the way (old habits die hard and sin does not fade easily), I made my way back into the fold that I walked away from decades ago. One of those blocks was my inability to join both my heart and mind in unison to believe in what the Bible teaches. So I dared to pray to God for a sign, in spite of the fact I was told how wrong it was to do so. I humbly pleaded with Him to help me with my skeptical pragmatism which plagued me from total commitment to Christ, and that with the sign I would doubt no more. Later that day I received a sign, then another two days later, and a third one three days after the second. I will not go into details as they are personal, but I am convinced as to what they were and doubt His existence no more.

To whom much is given, much is expected. So I decided to start evangelizing by creating this blog, and giving money to the poor by sponsoring three children through Compassion International. But I needed to do more than that. I needed to find a church to call home.

Joining a church seemed to be the hardest part of returning to God. First I had to pick a denomination and then a city and state to call home. Being a trucker often means you live out of a PO Box and stay in hotels wherever you take your break, which I did for 13 years. But now it was time to land somewhere. And before I chose a location and denomination, God sent several Catholics into my life, one of whom was an old college roommate named Kevin (his St. Ambrose to my St. Augustine) who had prayed for me to join up with the Catholic Church 20 years before. With their guidance (and many deeply satisfying discussions) my fate was sealed. This past November I started classes in my local church's RCIA program, and tonight I join the church with my First Communion. In the pews will be mostly converts attending what must feel like a class reunion of sorts, remembering their First Communion with the Eucharist and the Catholic Church. I will try to keep from breaking down.

May the Grace of God be with all of you always.


Paul said...

Matt,this is a wonderful, evocative journey of a soul with an extremely happy ending! Welcome home, brother, and God bless you on your continuing travels.

You and your family are firmly ensconced in my daily prayers.

Matt said...

Thank you, Paul. Tonight went very well, and it is great to be home.

Leslie said...

A beautiful story, Matt.
God's blessings to you this Easter.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Matt! I'm very happy for you.


Kraus said...

This is a very well written account and not altogether unlike my own. I reverted to the Holy Catholic Church with the help of a close friend who converted to the Antiochan Orthodox Church from a Protestant upbringing.
I later became involved in a retreat called ACTS, which hails from San Antonio, and I can assure you that it is a beautiful working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of many Catholic men, who so often have not taken conscious reckoning of the faith that is in them. When they do, it is a powerful and wondrous thing to behold, as though something which was only smoldering for decades suddenly gets enough oxygen to burst into flame.
I stumbled onto your blog by way of searching for (almost totally non-existant) media coverage of the March for life, which I also attended on Friday. I am encouraged by your account and give thanks to Our Lord for you.