Friday, April 22, 2011

Fond Memories of Holy Week

Fond Memories of Holy Week: Part I   

Holy Week of the year 2000 was a very memorable one for Kevin and me. We had a lot of firsts: I was a Confirmation sponsor, I would be away from my family on Easter, and Kevin and I spent the Easter holiday together.
I wondered how things would go when Kevin offered to come down for Holy Week. The previous fall we’d gotten into a heated argument because I insisted on going to Mass even though Kevin had driven 500 miles to spend three days with me at Hollins. He had fallen away from the Church and couldn’t understand how I could “waste” any of the precious time we had together by going to Church. I went anyway, not knowing if he would have left early by the time I returned. He hadn’t, and that evening we came up for the menu for our relationship: LAUGHING TOGETHER.
I was definitely surprised that Kevin wanted to come during Holy Week, because I’d told him what it would entail. I had my college courses and assignments as usual and would be going to the Foot Washing on Holy Thursday, the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, the Easter Vigil (which usually lasts about three hours) on Saturday, and also Mass on Easter Sunday which would run long because there would be a Baptism and at least one Confirmation.

Fond Memories of Holy Week: Part II

Even knowing I’d be participating in all of these events, Kevin came. What’s even more amazing is that he went with me to each of the Masses and services and actually participated. We went to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Salem, VA for the Easter Triduum since that was the parish that sponsored our Catholic Campus Ministry. By that time, Kevin had come to church with me on other visits, but he never sang, never went up to Communion, never seemed fully present at Mass.
Kevin was raised Catholic. He went to public school up until eighth grade when he was given the choice to go to Catholic school, so he could make his Confirmation. This is what he chose to do. When we met the summer before my junior year of high school, he’d already been Baptized, made his First Communion and done his first Confession. He’d also been Confirmed and fallen away from the Church.
Kevin and I spent many a late night talking on the phone about faith. For a very long time, Kevin was extremely put off because I insisted on going to church, praying regularly, and emphasizing that faith was and is an integral part of who I am. He felt like he was in competition with God for my attention. I made it perfectly clear that wasn’t the case. I wanted God to be first then and always. Kevin wouldn’t and shouldn’t rise above second in my list of priorities.
That Holy Week, I was given many signs that my prayers that Kevin would be given the gift of faith and return to the Church were heard by God. On Holy Thursday, Kevin went up and received the Eucharist for the first time since he’d first started accompanying me to Mass. He only took the Body of Christ, not the cup, but I was still doing spiritual cartwheels and back flips.

Fond Memories of Holy Week: Part III

On Good Friday when our row got up to venerate the cross, he remained seated. I was disappointed. A few minutes after we returned, Kevin went up on his own and joined the line. My heart skipped a beat.
I was very curious to see how the Easter Vigil would go. It’s a long Mass since many readings are done and songs are sung that serve as a summary of the faith. They begin in Genesis starting with God creating the world and finding it good and end up in the New Testament with Christ’s rising from the dead and appearing to the disciples. Besides the trip through the Bible, any RCIA candidates (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) are Baptized (if they haven’t been previously), given First Communion, and Confirmation. Children who have not yet been Baptized and/or whose parents are being brought into the church are also given the sacraments of initiation at this time.
It is a very powerful, very moving service—one that includes all the major elements of the Catholic Christian faith. I was really hoping Kevin wouldn’t get bored and start pulling on my shirt like a toddler asking how much longer before we could leave.
Kevin loved taking part in the Mass. When it came time for Communion, he received both the Body and Blood of Christ. He paid attention to all the readings, said the prayers he remembered, and held my hand. I was overjoyed!
Afterwards, Kevin said the Easter Triduum, particularly the Easter Vigil, helped him to understand the faith. What’s more, when he returned to Rochester after that weekend, he started going to Mass on his own, usually at St. Charles Borromeo, a church with great significance for both of our families. My parents had been married there.  Kevin’s aunt and uncle attended the parish and knew my grandmother from there which is how our family got to rent the cottage, and thereby meet Kevin and his father, the real Harry Potter. It’s also the church where my parents were married.
On Easter Sunday, we celebrated Mass in the Atrium Chapel at Roanoke College. I enjoyed being a Confirmation sponsor. Afterwards, we had a reception with lots of wonderful food. That’s when Fr. Remi, the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the priest who ministered to our Catholic Campus Ministry, recognized Kevin’s dedication. After finding out he’d driven down from upstate New York to spend four days attending church with me, he named Kevin “the patron saint of boyfriends.” I agreed.

All proof that countless miracles are still happening in the world. God is awesome!

Note to readers: These reflections were first written April 19, 2008.
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