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

Friday, January 1, 2010

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

The year 2009 was a lousy year economically for many, including myself.  And although I didn't lose my job (thank God!), the size of my wallet has shrunk considerably due to the overall economic slowdown in all major facets of the marketplace.  However, in spite of that and the increase in vulnerability of our nation to its foes,... it has been the best year of my life, spiritually speaking.

At Easter Vigil this past year I joined the Catholic Church and had true Communion with God for the first time in my life.  At Pentecost I was Confirmed by my Bishop and sealed in my faith.  It was a true gift for which I feel grateful each day, and look forward to the coming years and the spiritual blessings they may bring.  Read about my passage into the faith HERE, HERE, and HERE (if you haven't already).

It was a long road that included encounters with many different people who influenced the final decision.  One I have failed to mention in much detail was an amusing little incident at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan with a very old and tiny nun.

In one of my infrequent visits to New York City in 2006, out of curiosity, I stopped at the Cathedral on 5th Avenue just to see what it looked like on the inside.  I was still nondenominational, but Christian, and not without an interest in the path I refused to take as a child, that of the Catholic faith.  So I entered on a Friday afternoon and was knocked over by the beauty of the interior of this great church.  And while I sat and stared at the pillars, statues and paintings, the museum ropes were undone and a seemingly spontaneous Mass started.

I decided to stay in my seat and sit through it, and then figured on taking Communion with the rest of them, thinking that since I had already taken it in Episcopal, Baptist, and Methodist churches it might be okay.  And if I wasn't sure I could always ask, right?  But in order not to break the solemnity of the occasion I made sure I was last in line so as not to disrupt the order of things with my questions.

A priest and two nuns were giving out the Eucharist that day.  I approached the one that looked the easiest-- a tiny old nun with glasses and a large head.  When I got to her she picked up the Blessed Host  in the species of a bread disc with her swollen, arthritic hand  and raised it as high as she could  (I am  6'5", she was about 4'6"), as I explained my situation and asked her if it was okay for me to take Communion.

She leaned toward me and answered, "WHAT?"

I repeated my question, but half way through she interrupted me with "Never had first?.....NO" and shook her head as she looked down and returned the Eucharist to its chalice.  Being slightly OCD, I bent down toward her to finish my question, thinking she might change her mind if she heard me out.  But while still looking down, she raised up her hand as I bent down and accidentally, loudly smacked her fist against my forehead, stunning us both.

Then she gazed up at me with a huge smile and laughed as she gently patted my forehead and said "God bless you!"  I thanked her and returned to my seat, glowing from the blessing.  She could have reacted in so many different ways much less pleasant, but didn't.  The nun had Grace and it showed, but more importantly, she also had a strong devotion to the sanctity of the rules of her faith.  And the impression this encounter made on me was remembered when I finally decided to sign up for RCIA classes to join the church.

I think of her and the other nuns on this day, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the strong roles that women play in the Catholic Church, and feel gratitude for them all.

And by the way, have yourselves a very happy and blessed new year!


T. Paine said...

Great story of you and a "spiritually giant" nun! Best wishes and prayers to you in 2010, Matt. Hopefully come November we can start re-building our country and economy as well.

Anne said...

Hello Matt, Your comment on Conversion Diary about being the only male who participates in 7 quick takes intrigued me, so here I am!

I love, love love the gorgeous picture of Mary! Where ever did you find that?

The post is great too, wonderful story! How I'd love to meet that nun! God Bless!