This coming Sunday, I will be received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
I’ve written about this journey before, but I haven’t yet wrapped it up. Of course, I won’t ever be able to wrap it up, because our journey with God thankfully never ends until we reach our final destination of full union with Him. However, it seems like now is as good a time as any to officially wrap up this particular blog series, especially since in my last post I had not yet even begun the official Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) class.
RCIA class started at my University Catholic Chaplaincy in November. We’ve been meeting Thursday evenings during term time, so after this week’s last meeting, we’ll have met about 16 times. There are 9 of us – 3 being received after baptism in a non-Catholic Christian faith community (like myself – I was baptized on the day of my confirmation in the PC(USA)), 3 being confirmed after being baptized Catholic but never confirmed as teenagers, and 3 being baptized as new followers of Christ.
I’ve been catechized by Jesuits, so if you find me ignorant of any vital aspect of Catholic life or practice, you know who to blame. Or so my Jesuit RCIA director says. I, for one, could not be more grateful to the Jesuits. It was through my short time at a Jesuit college that I realized I needed to learn more about Catholicism if I wanted to be an educated Christian. The Jesuits also run our University Chaplaincy, and have given me a spiritual home in this new country. The Chaplaincy will also be my physical home next year, as I have been accepted into one of their student rooms for my second and final year at Oxford. The daily Masses, community meals, and regular spiritual direction have given me a community of brothers and sisters in faith and a grounding in prayer. Plus, St Ignatius is a knight after my own heart. The chapel is also named after St Thomas More, the saint whose name I’ll be taking as my confirmation name, and the main assembly hall is the Newman Room, named after the convert who will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI when he visits the U.K. in September. It’s all very auspicious.
I’m also very grateful to the Dominicans. There’s one Dominican friar in particular, a member of our Chaplaincy team who’s on a one-year pastoral placement before his ordination as a priest in the fall, to whom I’m especially grateful. He’s just been ordained a deacon, and will be serving at the Mass at which I’ll be received next week, which makes me happy. He’s been a good friend and mentor who, like my father, appears to be able to read my mind, and say the exact words I need to hear. It’s uncanny. I’ve gotten to know a few other of the friars as well, and they’re all good men it’s a pleasure to be around.
We also have Benedictines in Oxford who have given of their time to advise and encourage me, and there’s a doctoral student at my College who has the heart of a Franciscan whom I enjoy speaking with about matters theological and spiritual. (There is also a Franciscan friar whose blog I read regularly, and who recently answered my request for guidance on spiritual direction with a whole post on the subject. Read it, then subscribe to his blog. I’ve read the entire archives.)
Religious life is the jewel of the Catholic Church; it throws off the light of Christ in a splendour of different colours. Each order’s gifts bring out the others’, and I hope I can one day find the one whose charism and mission I can live out, if God wills. But for the next couple years, my job is just to strive to be a good Catholic. I’ll re-enter the vocational discernment process once the honeymoon period is over.
But I am enjoying this honeymoon, this period of exploring and mining the riches of the Catholic Faith. I can’t think of a better place to be in. Oxford is one of the most Catholic towns in England. Just down the street from my College is a spot where Catholic martyrs were hanged. The University was founded by Catholics to teach theology, and here I am, a student of theology about to enter a new life as a Catholic. It doesn’t get any better than this.
I’ll end this series with one of my favourite prayers, by St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits:
Teach us, Good Lord,
To serve Thee as Thou deservest;
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not to heed the wounds;
To labor and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do Thy will.
Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Please pray for all of us who are entering the Church at the Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy, that we may experience the peace and joy of Christ, live to do His will, and rest in His love at the end.
God bless you all, and thank you for your support during this journey.