Today at Mass was the Rite of Welcome for those going through the RCIA program at our church. I went through RCIA ten years ago, so I'm always interested in the program and when I see these people it touches my heart. RCIA stands for Rite of Catholic Initiation of Adults. Or something like that. Anyway, it's for those who are adults and want to become Catholic or finish the process to becoming fully confirmed in the Catholic faith. They may never have been baptized; maybe they praticed another faith and are converting; maybe they were baptized into The Church but didn't continue with their First Communion or Confirmation and now want to complete the process. But for whatever reason, they have come to get closer to God.
RCIA meets once a week, and at first they get to get all their questions about The Church answered. If they decide they want to continue on their faith journey with The Church, they get partnered up with a sponsor who is there to support them and answer any questions they may have. The meetings continue each week and they get lessons on the church's beliefs, history, practices, etc. I was lucky enough to get a wonderful woman for my sponsor. We connected so strongly that her and her husband (who is also a wonderful person) are Sophia and Harrison's Godparents. They are people who will continue to be in our lives no matter where we may end up and no matter how much time passes.
So this morning the congregation met outside the front doors of the church where the candidates were lined up with their sponsors and Father Fernando introduced them and asked them what they asked of The Church. Answers vary from learning more about God, to growing closer to God, to becoming who God wants them to be. The answers are endless. They are then welcomed into our Church and congregation and Mass begins.
What struck me this morning and made my eyes tear up a little were three people specifically. Two of them were a couple. And man and a woman, both about my and Vince's age, who were obviously married and had a baby girl with them about 10 months old. It reminded me of the importance of my faith in regards to my children. When I was young and single, I really didn't give my faith much thought, if I even had any faith at the time I don't remember. But once I was planning on getting married and having children, my faith became important to me. So important that even as a full-time college student who also worked part-time, I still found time to find a church, join the RCIA program, attend my weekly meetings with commitment, and attend the couple of retreats that were required. And no matter how busy I was with everything else, I looked forward to my RCIA commitments. I wanted my children raised with a strong belief in God, and good moral convictions. And most importantly, I wanted to be an example of a good person. I know that just attending Mass regularly doesn't make a good person, we also have to live our faith and follow "the rules". That's what Vince and I try to do. So it touches me when I see other families trying to do the "right" thing. No matter how many mistakes we've made in the past, we can turn it around and be an example to our children.
The other person who caught my eye was an older woman with white hair. I'm guessing she was in her 60's, maybe pushing 70. I think it takes a certain kind of courage when at that age to stand up in front of hundreds of people and ask for The Church's assistance with her faith journey. I know that as we get older we get settled into ourselves, and change gets more and more difficult. Did she never practice any faith before? Did she belong to another church and decide that it wasn't the right one for her? Has she been attending Mass all along, but was never able to partake of the eucharist and decided to finally become fully confirmed? I may never know, but she touched me the most. She reminded me that our faith is a gift from God. It's not something we earn or aquire on our own. And no matter how old we may be, God is there for us, welcoming us. It's never too late.