40 Days, 40 Graces: Day Forty
by Mark Gordon
Grace Forty: An Everyday Faith
Fourteen years ago this evening, I was received into the Catholic Church in a brief but beautiful ceremony during the Easter Vigil Mass. In one fell swoop, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation and made my public profession of fidelity: “I believe and hold to be true all that the Catholic Church proposes and teaches.” Then, within a few moments I encountered my Lord for the first time in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The gifts I had received from my wonderful, faithful parents decades earlier – an intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ, an ingrained appreciation for the the Scripture, and a thoroughly Christian world-view – reached their full flower in a matter of moments. Meanwhile, in a touchingly sad commentary on the continuing disunity of the the Body of the Christ, my mother, the finest Christian I know, sat weeping in the second pew, bewildered by what to her appeared to be a tragedy, a loss.
I have often reflected on the strange fact that the Easter Vigil passed without much much meaning or intensity for me. After so many months and years of preparation, the actual event was anticlimactic. The late hour, the incense, the music, the crowd, the bishop in his magnificent vestments; it was all a bit too much to process within the moment. We were actors in a liturgical drama that evening, moving deliberately across a grand stage in accordance with an ancent script, but with the detachment of jaded thespians. Objectively, the drama was tailor-made for a peak experience, but one of the things I realized that evening was that Catholicism isn’t about peak experiences. Catholicism is an everyday faith, suitable for the mountaintop surely, but divinely configured for the valleys in which most people spend the days of their lives.
And so, it wasn’t until the 7:00 AM Mass on Easter Monday that the truth of what had happened to me became real. I wobbled into the silence of St. Brendan Church and took my place among a tiny cluster of five or six others. The lingering scent of incense hung in the air, a reminder of Saturday night’s revelry; but the crowds were gone, the bishop decamped to his chancery, the tiny tongues of Resurrection fire extinguished, and the choir dispersed. In the half-light of a Monday morning, the 100,128th Monday morning since the Resurrection, a sleepy priest ascended the altar nearly unnoticed. He crossed himself and said in a reed-thin voice, “We begin as always in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost …”
In that moment I knew I was home.
“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”