Sunday, March 27, 2011

First Scrutiny - Moved to Tears

This morning at Mass, we celebrated the First Scrutiny with our catechumen.  Casey is a very young adult, and very unchurched.  She came to us this morning, her hair in a messy pony tail, wearing jeans with holes and a hoodie with the word "Love" emblazoned on the chest, and was seated in the front row.

As the cantor, I could see her clearly.  Her participation in Mass was minimal, but it was clear she was listening. The story of the Woman at the Well seemed to engage her attention. After the homily, she stood up, obviously only knowing the bare outline of what was to happen (as is proper, she was not over-rehearsed).  She stood in the center aisle, among the people, with her sponsor, bowing her head as the invitation to prayer over her and intercessions were read.

Then the surprise happened.

The presider asked the people from the parish community seated immediately around her to stand and place their hands on Casey's shoulders.  A group of people rose and joined her and her sponsor as the Prayer of Exorcism was read, asking for healing and protection for her from Satan as she enters her final preparations for baptism at the Easter Vigil.  Her face told it all - she got it.  She was fighting back tears all through the prayer at the enormity of the realization that the entire community was supporting her and holding her up in prayer. It was powerfully evident that she understood that Christ wanted her for his own so much that his whole people was praying for her in love.... that "Love" on the front of her shirt had finally found the reason she had chosen to wear it this morning.

Good liturgy finds ways to foster those "gotcha" moments - to demonstrate the love of God in such ways as can move participants along in their journey to conversion.  This morning, Casey was moved to tears - and later on to delight, as near the end of Mass, a couple renewed their marriage vows on their 25th anniversary - once again surrounded by the love and affirmation of the community. She grinned with joy as she realized what was about to happen when they came up - this, too, was obviously new to her. Again, she got it.

Church is essentially the love of Christ poured out to and through his community of faith. We have to keep trying to find good ways to show that through how we celebrate - to newcomers and to each other.

Thanks to Jerry Galipeau, for his great idea from his recent workshop about placing her in the center of the people and inviting them to lay hands on her.... it works! And thanks to my parish RCIA leaders and pastoral staff - for having the courage to try this.

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