Thursday, April 09, 2009

Alone at My First Easter Vigil

The nice thing about being in your late forties and having a blog is that the blog can step up to the plate and pinch hit for your brain. When I can't remember something, I turn to the always-reliable search feature.

Last night, we were trying to remember how old Ramona was when we first took her to the Easter Vigil. I couldn't access the memory so I turned to the Search box and found out she was three. This will be our fourth year to attend the Easter Vigil as a family. And that has me thinking back to what Easter used to be like around here.

My history of attending the Vigil is a history of growing up and growing into my life as a Catholic and as a Catholic wife and mother.


The year I was received into the Church, I attended the Vigil alone. Well, no, not entirely alone -- my lovely sponsor was with me, of course. Her name was Carolyn. We had first met the night they told me she would sponsor me. I felt so alone that night, so pitiful. A stranger as a sponsor? How weird is this, I remember thinking. The whole class must feel sorry for me.

I had wanted my friend, Jack, to be my sponsor, but a weekly two-hour drive for RCIA classes was impractical, so Carolyn was assigned to me and slowly we got to know each other.

So, I had Carolyn at the Vigil, and Jack came, too. And he brought along a friend, just to keep him company on the two-hour drive to the Church (and for the two hours he would drive home that night.)

Carolyn, Jack, and someone I barely knew. Atticus stayed home with Anne-with-an-e, who was about 18 months old. He didn't want to stop me from becoming a Catholic, but he didn't particularly want to be a part of it, either.

That first Easter Vigil was a frightening, incandescent event. Fear and awe mingled with an odd detachment, an observation of all that I was doing, of what was happening. At the last minute, I was tapped on the shoulder and asked to be one of the candidates who would help to carry the gifts up to the priest. I remember shaking a little as I carried the decanter of wine. This is going to become the Precious Blood of Jesus, I thought. And I will consume Him -- Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. And I am here alone.

No, not alone! I scolded myself. Your friend is here, and all these people are here. And God is here.

And yet, in a specific way, because I am a married woman, I felt alone. My husband was not there.

When I received Holy Communion for the first time that night, I did not experience magic. I didn't instantly change, nor did my feelings. I was not suddenly transported to a new place of giddy joy. Something I wished for (spiritual unity in my marriage) was still missing. And yet, I felt ... what? Grounded. Firm. Certain. I did not have a single regret about what I was doing.

I wasn't sure how I could feel quiet exultation and deep sadness at the same time, but I did. I knew this was the right thing.

Perhaps it's because I knew, down to my bones, this:

I was not alone.

(To be continued later today, I hope ....)


Updated: Part II is here


Sarah Reinhard said...

Karen, this is beautiful, and so reminiscent of how I experienced my first Vigil Mass too. Thank you for sharing it!

momto5minnies said...

No, you weren't alone, but I get how it feels to not have your sidekick at your side.

My first Vigil was witnessing my husband coming into the Church. It was amazing. We went again (with just one of our daughters) to this past Vigil and I really enjoyed just sitting next to my husband and letting him be witness to all these new Catholics. I think we'll make it a tradition.

Hopefully next year we will take the entire group. I just didn't think a 3 year old could make it so we ended up going to mass again on Sunday.

Can't wait to read the rest of your story ...