Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alone at My First Easter Vigil -- Part 2

Or, "In Which I Recount My History with the Easter Vigil"

Or, "In Which He Makes My Crooked Ways Straight"

Part 1 is here.


I left my first Easter Vigil knowing that despite my sadness over my husband's refusal to consider Catholicism, I had a steadfast companion. Jesus had not let me down, and the quiet exultation I felt while in His presence continued.

I attended my second Easter Vigil as a sponsor. Actually, as a neophyte, I had no business sponsoring someone else so soon, but no one knew better, and I was eager to help. My family was not really a part of Holy Week that year. Atticus stayed home with two-year-old Anne. I was very pregnant with Betsy, but otherwise, it was just Me and My Candidate. I reveled in sharing Holy Week with someone who was excited about it and full of questions.

The next year, I was on the RCIA team. Holy Week was again a time to share my excitement and joy with others -- candidates and catechumens. Still, no Atticus. He stayed home with our two very little girls.

I continued to be a part of the RCIA team the following year. I loved it. Really loved it -- listening to others' stories, teaching, answering questions, learning more all the time ... I loved it so much that when I began to feel that God was calling me away from it, I didn't want to listen to Him. He couldn't possibly want me to stop, could He?

But, the whisper I kept hearing was that I needed to pull back from "church work" ... pull back from witnessing to others, and witness in a different way -- in my own home. To my husband. I felt God nudging me to show Atticus that my love for him and for the family God had given us was my overriding call, my vocation, and the most important thing in our world.

And so, with a heavy heart I resigned from the team, at least temporarily. And when Holy Week rolled around that year, it felt very strange to me to be home on Holy Thursday night. Instead of the gorgeous Mass I had come to love, I was at home with my little girls, creating a "Holy Family meal" and coloring pictures of the Last Supper, and watching five-year-old Anne-with-an-e build a crucifix out of blocks. Instead of being absorbed in behind-the-scenes RCIA prep and busy-ness in those final days before the Easter Vigil, I was home, calm, present. Instead of being out late on Holy Saturday night with people Atticus didn't even know, I was at home with him. That year we went to Mass on Easter Sunday morning, as a family (though he was adamant that he was still not considering the Catholic Church; he was merely being courteous to me.)

I was also expecting another baby, though we lost the baby the month after Easter. I asked our baby to intercede for his father.

Then, later that summer, something changed.

Atticus and I had been having a lot of conversations about faith. He had been thinking, he said, about the nature of evil -- about how evil really comes down to being separated from God. I will never forget the moment when he said to me, "And I don’t think I want to be separated anymore. I want to be where you and the girls are."

I remember where I was sitting. I remember the tears that welled up in my eyes. I remember my disbelief ("I can't believe he believes!" I thought.) And, I remember cautiously imagining that we would become a Catholic family.

But, not so fast, Missy. Atticus assured me that what he meant was simply that he wanted to further explore things.

Hmm. I happened to know an RCIA team that could use another member. I grabbed the chance to rejoin the team and to let my husband "tag along" and listen in. The priest and the RCIA director were entirely open to allowing Atticus as an unofficial participant for as long as he liked. (It didn't hurt that the priest was the one who had suggested the year before that we both pray to St. Therese for Atticus's conversion.)

I've written before about the journey of that year.

The Easter Vigil of 2000 brought a joy into our lives that, at one time, I thought I'd never see. Five years after the Vigil in which I'd been received, Atticus came into the Church.

For the next few years, we sacrificed experiencing the majesty of the Vigil for the things that worked best for our little family. Our young daughters handled Mass on Easter Sunday morning better than a late Saturday night, so that was our tradition for awhile.

When Ramona was two years old, I decided to take the older girls to the Easter Vigil while Atticus stayed home with Ramona. Anne-with-an-e and Betsy were excited to attend, as I'd been preparing them for it, and teaching them about what they would see.

The following year, when Ramona was three, we tried the Vigil with the whole family. It worked fairly well, except that Ramona slept through the whole thing, and then was up for hours after we got home. (Not so good if the Easter Bunny needs to come to your house that night.) The next year, when she was four, all the pieces fell into place.

Our whole family now attends the Vigil together, no one falls asleep, we all look forward to the baptisms, my daughters try to predict when I'll start crying, Atticus and I reminisce, and then we head home and celebrate with delectable food and drink.


There were so many times when I had no idea what God would do next -- times I couldn't see through the dark tunnel to the light at the end. I had to walk in blindness until He would lead me to the next step.

That's what faith is -- a series of steps in the dark, with wholehearted trust that my Guide is leading and won't let me fall.

When I converted alone and lost unity with my husband, when I left a ministry I loved, when I lost babies and arguments and every sense of firm footing ... God was at work.

I just had to trust.

And to hold on, with all my strength, to the knowledge that I was not, am not, alone.


"I will lead the blind on their journey; by paths unknown I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. These things I do for them, and I will not forsake them."

~~ Isaiah 42:16

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

~~ Jeremiah 29:11


Roxane B. Salonen said...

This is beautiful. I attended the Easter Vigil alone this year, but...I truly enjoyed it. I hadn't gone for about 12 years, when my husband and newborn son became Catholic at the same service. I went mainly because I've missed it, and because a friend of mine became Catholic. I loved reading about your experiences, both past and future. And even though I am a cradle Catholic, I understand the feeling of spiritual separateness. Even though our family is all one faith now, we don't walk identical faith paths at all times. No matter how much we try to merge our lives, in the end, it is still going to be just us and God in the end, so, we might as well get somewhat accustomed to depending solely on God. Everything else is gravy. Anyway, thank you so much for this post. It was very meaningful.

Karen E. said...

Thank you, Roxane, for your kind words.

Things have come full circle because I, too, would be able to thoroughly enjoy going to the Vigil Mass alone now, if that's what circumstances dictated. :)

And, I agree with you that ultimately, it always comes down to sole dependence on God, and that is always our goal. Either Atticus or I could lose the other tomorrow -- no one knows what the future holds, and the final relationship is with Him ....

Suzywoozy said...

Wow. There is so much hope in this post.

I also cry at some bits during the vigil.. Luckily noone's noticed yet. :-)

Rae said...

That is beautiful. On Holy Thursday I had the privilege of sitting next to a woman who alternates holy days with her husband while one stays home with the young children and the other takes the older ones to Church. While your story is quite different from theirs, both remind me that things don't need to be perfect in order for us to be with God. It is okay that I *need* to go to daily Mass while my husband does not.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. Maybe there's hope for my family too. Maybe.

Sarah Reinhard said...

The story is inspiring on its own, but your telling brings me to tears. Thanks for sharing it, Karen, in such a heartfelt and honest way. :)

Karen E. said...

Thank you, all, for such beautiful and kind comments.