Friday, December 30
"I Might Become Protestant"
A thought which has passed through my mind only once or twice in my life. But let me explain: I think you'll be sympathetic.
I was recently in a city quite dear to me in which my favorite clerical institute has a significant presence (the fastest-growing institute in the States: 8 locations now!). Their parish was but a 10 minute walk from my hotel, so when I had an afternoon free, well, of course I knew how to spend it.
I looked up from my pew, by now it was about 2:30pm, only to see that a young priest (really, what did you expect?) was lighting candles and arranging a chair in the center of the sanctuary.* He came over to me and said that there would be a quick ceremony, but said that I could certainly stay to watch.
Never before had I seen a "Reception of a Convert into the Church" according to the 1962 liturgical books. If you get the chance: Go.
A woman, young (really, what did you expect?), emerged from the confessional. She was joined in the front pew by three family members, and I sat a few pews back on the opposite side of the aisle. We five were soon outnumbered: a very biretta'd choir soon emerged from the sacristy, and the 4 of them took up their respective (uber-nice) choir stalls. Next, two servers preceeded the aforementioned young priest, now vested in decent cope, to kneel before the altar. Note that the cope was purple.
Father Celebrant intoned the Veni Creator, and my afternoon was blest with a very fine live rendition of a very fine piece of liturgical praise. The song ended, the celebrant was led to a chair, which had been placed before the altar in the middle of the sanctuary. After some brief remarks in English, the candidate went from her pew and knelt before Father Celebrant.
She began by reading the creed. And then, well, I'd never read the full 1962 formula for reception of a convert before. She proceeded to renounce, in many and very specific terms, her protestant heritage; this long statement was crowned with a sacred pledge to accept the Sacred Council of Trent.
Satisfied with the statement, Father Celebrant began a silent Paternoster. An absolution of reception was pronounced, all stood up, and processed to vestibule of the church.
For my part, I left through the side door and walked back to my hotel, pondering my gratitude for this unplanned participation in the liturgy of the Church, pondering how cheesy the RCIA rites leading up to Easter Vigil had always seemed in my parish back home; pondering my hopes that the young woman would discover Christ, the joy of her youth, in ever deeper ways, and pondering--a bit more facetiously--how, man, I wonder what I would have to do to go through the same thing, myself.
*I must confess, this did not surprise me: though there was no reason to think that any service would be held in the church early on a weekday afternoon, still I knew I would see something cool when I left. These premonitions occasaionally happen to me. A few years ago, I was going to visit a city to see an art museum; and I had the thought, "I should bring my good rosary, so that when I see the Archbishop, he can bless it." I had no reason to think I would see the archbishop, but through an interesting turn of events, he did infact bless it before the day was over.