My friend who has fallen away from the Church was making light of my conversion some months back. He said, “You just wait, Webster. When they see you want to get involved in the parish, there's no end to what you'll be asked to do.” My friend doesn't know me that well, I guess. Because to get involved—as many hours a day as possible—is one big reason why I am Catholic.
I thought of this Sunday morning when I had the privilege of addressing this year's RCIA class at our church. I started out by saying they could look at RCIA in two distinctly different ways: One, they could see it like driver's education—do the work, pass the test, get your license, and you're good to go. Two, they could see it as the beginning of the great adventure of their lives.
I said that for me Catholicism is nothing less than my great adventure, and I explained the many ways in which I've explored it in my two years in the Church. I encouraged them to consider some of these, dividing my suggestions into three groups: personal growth, service, and adventure.
- Pray regularly, subscribe to Magnificat, better yet, read the Liturgy of the Hours
- Go to daily mass
- Go to confession once a month or more
- Go to Adoration
- Read history (everything from the early Fathers to the history of the Church in your part of the world)
- Read Catholic theologians or philosophers like Frank's fave, Blaise Pascal
- Read Catholic novels like Kristin Lavransdatter or my new obsession, Island of the World by Michael O'Brien (post to come)
- Put some of these movies in your Netflix queue: A Man for All Seasons, The Song of Bernadette, The Nun's Story, Into Great Silence
- Listen to Catholic music, from Hildegarde of Bingen to Taizé
- Watch EWTN, especially “The Journey Home,” Marcus Grodi’s series of interviews with converts, Mondays at 8 p.m.
- Be a lector, like my friend Ferde
- Learn to serve in other ways
- Sing in the choir
- Teach religious education
I ended by telling the RCIA class about my friend Frank Gaudenzi (left). No matter how early you arrive at daily mass in our church, you are likely to find Frank there ahead of you: on his knees in the front pew, unmoving, praying silently. Frank is 85 years old, and he is there every morning. Frank has a couple of great expressions. One, delivered with a fist pump, is "Go easy." But my favorite is Frank's secret to keeping your faith alive. It's simple, Frank will tell you, "You have to stay plugged in." For Frank that means being at his post every morning.
For me "staying plugged in" is the whole sense of my life as a Catholic. It's just not enough to go to mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation, not for me. I'm too old, I've made too many mistakes, I need too much help now, not to allow the Church to inform every possible minute of my day.