There is perhaps nothing so inspiring as someone who has been called to join the Catholic Church as an adult, who in the midst of all the conflict and scandal sees the beauty and the power and the truth, and comes or returns to the Church wholeheartedly.
Every year, thousands of adults in America go through training in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). Some were never baptized, some were baptized into other traditions, and some were born into Catholic homes and baptized but never confirmed. Most of those who complete RCIA are welcomed into full communion with the Church (being baptized and confirmed, or just confirmed if they’re already baptized) as part of the Easter Vigil.
Every year, St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City collects reflections for its bulletin from some who have gone through RCIA there. The following are edited from recent years.
Philip Moy — I used to want nothing to do with religion. Growing up, there were always pressures for me to go to church, to believe in something. I spent most of my life denying God and rejecting any possibility that God would want anything to do with me. Last year I read The Pilgrim’s Progress, which catalogs the journey of a man seeking his salvation on a pilgrimage to Heaven. Reading this story, I cannot even put into words the change that occurred within me. It was then that I began investigating Christianity. This journey has been a complete 180-degree turn from the life I used to live. Now, with my newly found faith, I eagerly look forward to continuing in the footsteps of Christ, in hopes of bettering myself as a person, and doing well unto others. A year ago I was lost and alone, and today I can without doubt say that God has saved me. I have been handed a second chance; a clean slate, and I can’t wait to start my new life — a new life with God.
Zorina Elizabeth Rivera — My cousin asked me to be her sponsor for Confirmation. I was a baptized Roman Catholic, but had not received First Communion or Confirmation. I decided that this was the push I needed to bring myself closer to God and the Church. This is something I had been longing for, but never seemed to prioritize. I became more aware of God’s presence in my life and in the lives of all those that God had sent to guide me. I have grown in my relationship with God and enjoy the fellowship that our Christian community has to offer. I have heard Christ call my name… something I will never forget. I know this is only the first phase of my spiritual journey; I look forward with renewed faith to what lies ahead.
Amy Wu — A number of winters ago, a friend brought me to Christmas Eve Mass. I remember being overwhelmed with awe when I walked into the church. The experience was warm and magical — the music, the organ, lights, stained glass windows brought out the festivity of the season. Then last year I returned to New York City to work and returned with my friend and started attending a few Masses on Sunday evenings. Inside the church, surrounded by the beauty of its architecture and history, engulfed by music and community, I found a second home of sorts. In these past eight months, I have had a chance to move closer to God, the church and the community. Maybe it was the music, the grand organ, the beauty of the church and the kindness of its people that brought me here, but it led me to a much deeper journey — teaching me lessons about faith, opening myself up to others, being a part of a community, learning to trust and for the first time in my life making a commitment. It is not a bad start.
Benedict Schlatter — Though born and raised in England I was baptized Roman Catholic, but received little early religious formation. With age, I started to ponder life’s larger questions. Though I never had that so-called “eureka moment,” my conclusion was that there simply had to be a higher power. I met my wife after a life of unfulfilling relationships interspersed with periods of hedonistic bachelorhood. When we first started dating I was pleased that she was Catholic, but made little of it beyond enjoying a certain common heritage. But after dating her for a couple of months, my curiosity got the better of me — so I went to church with her. I found the experience extremely fulfilling and realized that the Catholic faith was something that I sorely needed. Since becoming a fully initiated Catholic, a couple of people have asked me if I have found God. “No,” I answer, “God found me.” I made the opposite of a simple Faustian bargain: in return for the gift of family I’m to be a better person. And, if at the end of the day I’ve fulfilled my charge, then my reward might be great indeed. I see things differently. Colors are brighter. Crying babies put a smile on my face. Life is very, very good.
Kellie Bazemore — My spiritual journey began when I realized I no longer felt the gravitational pull to attend church services. I pondered: Why am I living life without a connection to church, community and to God? Is this the way my “best self” would be proud of living? Am I setting a good example for my child? It was time for a change. I visited various churches in hopes of finding that matching shoe to make it all complete as Cinderella did. It did not happen. Then I attended Mass at St. Ignatius. That one Mass led to others. I loved the rich tradition, loyalty, community, intellectual study and connection. I had finally found my religious home. I had been raised fifth-generation Methodist. Converting to Catholicism was definitely “the road less taken” in my family. I wanted to find the courage to follow my heart in a complete walk of faith, not knowing the exact outcome — just as the blind man did with Jesus. I feel an indescribable sense of gratitude for my new faith, friends and connection to God. It is newfound love, similar to the birth of your first child or first young love. Except this time it’s a newfound deep enduring love with God. For me, this “the road less taken,” in agreement with Robert Frost, has made all the difference.
Greg Williams — Growing up as an Anglican, I felt like I had a thorough understanding of Christ, the Eucharist and other fundamental elements of my faith. It was not until I took a trip to Rome several years ago that I realized I desired more from my relationship with God than just an understanding. In my exploration of the Vatican and faith of our early Church Fathers, I felt a deep connection to the Catholic doctrines and was amazed at the depth of faith. Upon returning, I delved deeper into understanding the faith and reverent spirituality. Ten years later my journey led me to deepen my relationship with Christ, gain a parish family, and, most of all, develop an overwhelming desire for the Eucharist to be the central part of my life. While I have found my home as a Roman Catholic, I have also realized the new beginnings of continual growth in understanding Christ’s mysteries.