For the next couple of weeks, I continued to devour anything I could about Catholicism. I was studying on my own as well as attending the RCIA classes at my new spiritual home. Honestly, learning as many aspects as possible about this Faith, getting closer to God, was all I wanted to do. I would find myself falling asleep while reading or listening to podcasts or watching YouTube videos. The RCIA classes had a rotation of speakers who were Clergy. Each class had most of the same people in attendance as the first day I started going to them.
One of the classes was about the Eucharist. As a child, some of the Churches my maternal Grandmother took me to had something kind of like it. I don't recall what denomination any of these churches were. One of the ones we went to, passed around a platter with bread and tiny cups of red liquid. Whether it was actually wine or grape juice or whatever, I have no idea. The people in the Church took turns passing this around as each took a piece of the bread, and the 'wine' and consumed them. Adults did this and some children did too. It is because of seeing what they were doing that when the tray had been passed to my grandmother, I sought to imitate what I thought was the correct thing to do: I reached up to take the bread and red liquid for myself. My Grandmother pushed my hand away. She wasn't being mean or anything, but she had made it clear that for whatever reason, I was one of few here who could not participate in this ritual.
Many years later, I would find myself sitting at a coffeehouse in Monterey, California. It is highly possible that I happened to be there because I was skipping school that day, but we'll save that for another discussion. In any case I sat at a table with a deck of Tarot Cards and was trying to teach myself how to use them. As a teen, the Cartomancy my mother's family practiced, with its plain red or black cards of four suits was getting boring to me. Tarot seemed so much more colorful and interesting and mysterious with its varied styles and imagery. As I sat there, a lady in her early twenties sat down next to me and started asking questions about what I was doing. I explained it to her a little, still not knowing much about it myself. Somehow, she had managed to turn the conversation into an opportunity to proselytize to me. For whatever reason we wound up talking about that day in my grandmothers Church where I had been denied the bread and wine the others were having.
"Are you baptized?" she asked.
I was puzzled, wondering how this had anything to do with what we were talking about.
"No." I replied and sat there staring blankly at her as I waited for her to continue speaking.
She began quoting bible verses to me and explained that I had not been allowed to participate because only those who were baptized could do so. Why hadn't anyone ever told me this before?
So very many more years later, I sat in a classroom at the very top of a Catholic School and began to learn about the Eucharist. We learned that when Jesus instructed his disciples to partake of bread and wine in memoriam of him, that it was not simply a symbolic gesture. The bread and wine are literally the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. At any time in history since the Last Supper, when a Catholic has received Holy Communion, they are participating in that same event in the here and now. What a gift for Christ to leave with us! I suppose this should have seemed like a neat little story that was something 'charming' to listen to but not to be taken seriously, right? I don't know that I will ever be able to explain it but whatever had happened at Midnight Mass was still alive and well in me. Somehow or another I readily accepted the Catholic teaching of the Eucharist. It is neither strange or farfetched to me, it just simply IS. I longed even more for my baptism and to be brought fully into the Church. Patience was not a virtue I was very good at during that time. I wanted all the steps I needed to take to get to the Eucharist to have already been climbed. All I could do was 'just keep going' and know that 'it would all be ok.' and to keep 'climbing steps.'
One such step, was an interview I had with a Priest about my spiritual journey so far and why I wanted to become Catholic. He started off asking about my prior faith. I took a deep breath, knowing that I was about to say a whole bunch of words that I was now ashamed to say. I told him that I wasn't raised in any particular religion, and as such had never been baptized. I told him how I was an only child and spent a lot of time alone when I was growing up. I also told him how I always prayed and 'talked to God' when I was a kid. I explained that of all the Churches I had been to, Catholic churches always felt like God was actually present there. My awkwardness butted in with every other sentence trying to make certain I knew that I should have phrased everything differently.
As I continued, I told him that for most of my life, I had been involved in paganism, wicca and new age type things. I felt anxious and silly saying all of that. The thought of how much of my life had been spent in those pursuits was weighing on me a lot these days. I honestly felt like I had wasted so much time. He asked me something about why I wasn't happy with my old faith. I started saying a lot of things that segued into how the wiccan and pagan world had become too political for me. Among all my many reasons for wanting to leave, I talked about how they were espousing certain, awful and horrific things as empowering and that I didn't agree with them. Feeling guilty, I wound up admitting that I was being hypocritical and blurted out that I had participated in those same things many, many years ago and that it wasn't empowering to me at all and I wished I had never done them. Meanwhile, inside my head I was thinking, "OH MY GOD LAURIE STOP TALKING!"
So, I did stop talking. I started to cry a little as the weight of what I had done all those years ago crashed down upon me again, like it had done so many times over the past twenty years. I found myself staring at the floor not knowing what to say, or how to go on from that. My awkwardness told me I may as well leave now and that I truly was too broken to be here. As that thought entered my head, a box of tissue was sat in front of me. I hadn't even noticed the Priest get up to do that. I pulled one of the tissues out and began to dry my eyes. I looked up to see him sitting back down in his own chair. He wasn't judgmental or cruel. He looked concerned and acknowledged the sadness I was experiencing.
I had never been more relieved in my life than I was at that moment. To be met with compassion instead of judgement at revealing what I believe are the worst things I have ever done in my life, was another blessing on my new journey. I managed to compose myself and we continued to talk about what had been my spiritual journey so far. We talked for about forty-five minutes when he asked me questions about if I was ready to leave my old faith or if there was anything that I was still tied to. I responded that I had already left it. The interview had come to an end, and we walked into an office across the hall from where we had been. We went to talk to the lady who I had met that first day of RCIA. She and the Priest talked briefly about how I wanted to continue with the RCIA classes and that they were going to have me watch the Symbolon series on something called, 'Formed'
Finally, she asked, "What about 'Rite of Election?"
The Priest said that I could participate in that but that it might be much later in the year before I receive the Sacraments. I wondered what 'Rite of Election' even was but if it was a step on my path to being in full communion with the Catholic Church, then, yes, I definitely wanted to do that. So it was all set, the path of my formation of becoming a Catholic had been planned out. We exchanged farewells and I thanked them both. As I walked out of the building, I was happy but also felt a little raw from the deeply personal things I had shared. I also knew that I was one step closer to being Catholic and for all my longing for that to already be the truth, 'one step closer' would have to do for now.