Monthly Archives: November 2013

Rite of Acceptance

In the course of my initiation into the Roman Catholic Church I did not go through the Rite of Acceptance.

Did I get the memo?

But today I attended this Rite at St. John’s in Frederick to be the sponsor of my brother-in-law, Steve, and my sister, Janet. This was a great honor. The Rite transitions the Inquirer into the phase of Candidate/Catechumen which will continue until the Easter Vigil where they will be confirmed and formally introduced into the Catholic Church.

Here is how it went at the morning Mass:

After the “introit” a group of about 20 inquirers with their sponsors marched out from a side door into the front of the church in a line. Upon hearing their name called out, the candidates were to step up onto the stairs that line the front and turn to face the congregation while sponsors (me) remain on the ground floor looking forward standing in front of the candidates.

The priest asked a number of questions to the candidates as well as one for the sponsors too. But my main task involved making the sign of the cross on Steve’s[1] forehead, ears, eyes, heart, shoulders, hands and feet at the appropriate promptings from the priest. This was all new to me. Since Steve is about nine feet taller than me + 1 for the stair step it took a stretch to reach his facial features, particularly the forehead. But there was no need to bring forth the Holy Step-Stool of Jericho which, according to tradition, belonged to Zaccheus.

From there the Mass proceeded as usual which, for the most part, is the same as any Mass in the world with minor differences. Now as it happened, in this massive church, I was the first one in line for communion since the front pews were reserved for those in the Rite. As you might have read from my previous post, this is not a good arrangement since, as a Born Again Orthodox Roman Catholic newbie, I like to observe the pattern of the liturgy played out in other parishes first. It is quite common to knell before receiving the Eucharist at my home church[2] and this I did only to look into the annoyed features of the priest when I arose. Did I do something wrong?

Later, after sitting down, I realized that to the side were deacons holding chalices with the consecrated wine. Apparently, this was a Catholic Church that presented both “species” of bread and wine for the faithful. But not everyone went up for the wine which made my gaff look honest. {Aside: I actually think offering both species is a good thing but I understand why many churches don’t do it. Logistically it’s a bit complicated and with a shortage of hands it may not be possible}.

All kidding aside, this was a great day and I am extremely honored to be part of it—and I’m not even a Catholic for an entire year! How awesome is that! I know that my sister and brother-in-law will be exceptional Catholics and I know that the two of them will set the world on fire: Steve with his vast theological knowledge and Janet who won’t suffer heretics long. Indirectly, they were influential in my own odyssey toward Catholicism. Strange? Yes– but that’s another story.

[1] Janet did not require a similar consecration since, technically, she’s already Catholic. It’s complicated.

[2] Some actually kneel on both knees to receive the Eucharist ad oratio

Small Mass

On Thursday I visited the NDGS campus to return a book, look around and go to Mass, since, as part of student life, there is a Mass for students 7:00 – 7:30 PM Tuesday and Thursday. I arrived ten minutes early and entered the tiny chapel thinking I’d sit in the back and ease into what was to be my very first non-holy-day-of-obligation Mass ever.

The small chapel was too small and too well lit to slink in unnoticed. Immediately the priest, Father Andrew (or Father Paul), greeted me and asked if I would do the reading, offering a big blue opened book for me to examine. I tried to duck it but his command of English added to his perplexed response to my shyness. I was a student there right? Yes, well, so, ok, sure why not.

He ordered me to sit in the front which was about 2 paces from the door. The chapel supported about 16-20 kneelers in a narrow white room; an altar stood at the front practically the width of the room itself. I knelt, prayed, fidgeted. At about one minute before the hour I was still the only one in the chapel and I figured I’d be the only one participating that wet, rainy evening.

I am constantly amazed at the ability of Catholics to defy Normal (Gaussian) probability distribution functions when it comes to arriving at church. In any other earthly process, some people would show early, most arriving at the appointed time followed by a balanced number of stragglers to create the famous “bell shaped” curve scientist rely on. No, the Catholic function is more like a Rayleigh distribution with extremely narrow standard deviation up to the very, very start. Seconds before the hour the chapel was suddenly full with about nine other students, ALL of them sitting in the rows behind me.

This was a very bad arrangement. I was alone in front unable mimic the still slightly unfamiliar posturing required at various points of the Mass made more precarious by the unusual situation that all my familiarity is the Latin Mass. No worries, since I had with me a handy-dandy laminated card with all the English responses. “Hiding” in the front row with a laminated card must have seemed ridiculous among these hardcore, seasoned, veteran, orthodox Catholics. I might as well have been in a papal conclave, that is, with a laminated card for Dummies.

Soon it was my turn to read scripture, a passage from Malachi. I think I did OK. But the Psalm? Probably needed to give others a chance to learn the responsorial once or twice –do you think? Good news: no one set fire to me. I realized another gaff when the sign of peace was offered. I turned to get up from a knelling position to offer peace realizing that everyone else was already standing. You know, I was getting this vibe….

Then Communion, which I’ve started to receive in hand. I promised myself that I would always take Communion by mouth in the traditional way not realizing that my extreme nervousness in going up to receive  tenses me up so much I can barely stick my tongue out. Add to that a foreign hand coming toward my face creates a recoiling reflex that I can’t quite control. It was so bad I started closing my eyes after saying Amen. At some point I simply decided that someone was going to get hurt and I might as well take it by hand—not so orthodox but permitted, at least for now.

It wasn’t long before I heard these merciful words, “This mass ended”

Deo gratias.