* Before I begin this next post, I need to make a quick caveat: I don’t go around announcing that I periodically have visions, or strange dreams that come true. It’s not a good way to make friends unless you enjoy the company of meth addicts or patients from the local psyche ward. Sharing this piece of myself is rather terrifying, but I’m just going to have to trust God with that because it’s true, and I can’t very well leave out the most pivotal moment in my story thus far. So take it or leave it as you will, but I know what I felt and saw.
The next rite in our process was the Penitential Rite. The other rites had taken place on Sundays during Mass, but this rite was a more low-key rite with just our Tuesday night class. I did NOT want to go to our class that night. I even picked a fight with Lukus to keep from going. I had plopped into bed with my pj’s on and some old reruns on-line, and was not going to budge from that spot for the rest of the night. But something in me wouldn’t let me stay put. I knew I had to go. I just knew. But I was determined I was not going to be happy about it. I don’t always control my attitude the way I should, but regardless of how I feel about something, if I truly believe it’s the right thing to do, I cannot allow myself to walk away. My highest value is Truth, and when I know something to be True, I can hate it all I want and put up an immature fuss, but I still know I have to follow where it leads.
So we arrived about 40 minutes late. Our class typically begins with “Vespers” or an evening prayer time in the chapel, followed by a lecture/discussion in the classroom. But tonight, the order was swapped, and we’d missed the lecture my own sponsor had given, and everyone took a break before chapel time. I was not looking forward to the chapel service, or the rite…if anything, I’d hoped we’d skipped that part and had arrived in time for the lecture. But not so. I sat hopelessly in my chair, weak-heartedly sang the hymn, and barely uttered the prayers.
But as our RCIA director, Paul, gave his homily on the Transfiguration on the Mount, he mentioned Peter. He happened to mention that right before the Transfiguration, Jesus had asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter responds, “You are the Christ.” Oh how that hit me – and I didn’t hear any of the rest of the homily because my mind had taken a tangent onto Peter.
I’ve never particularly related to Peter before. After all, Peter was outspoken and adventurous and stubborn, three things that…well, we’re not always very self-aware, are we? But this time, Peter hit me square in the face as being me. You see, Peter KNEW the truth. He had been with Jesus for sometime now, he had seen miracles, he was one of the top three of Jesus’ circle of friends. Peter pretty much thought of himself the way I’ve always thought of myself – one of God’s favorites. Don’t worry, I’m not delusional enough to think that my boundless humility is going to get me canonized as a saint any time soon. Hi, I’m Ellany, and I’m a hubristic smarty-pants (not to mention outspoken and stubborn).
But I’m not alone. Peter proceeds to make an ass of himself. Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus as he’s praying, and Peter tries to get Moses and Elijah to stay longer by offering to make tents for them (whereas God quickly tells Peter to essentially shut-up and listen). Peter goes on to do some more stupid things, like cutting off ears to defend Jesus, then turning around and denying him three times because he’s terrified out of his mind. He knows what’s true, he loves his best friend, and yet, he’s so freaking scared of everything changing that all the life just gets sucked out of him because he doesn’t want to leave what’s familiar and what seems to be working so well. Peter liked the way things were. He wasn’t ready for things to change.
I could feel Peter then. “But being a Protestant is working so well, Jesus! People are getting saved, miracles are happening, people are seeking you and worshipping you…why should any of that have to change or be done differently when I’m SO feeling this vibe you’ve got going on here, Lord? Can’t we just keep things the way they are, Jesus? I’m not feeling you here in the Catholic Church, just like Peter wasn’t feeling that whole “getting beaten and thrown in prison” part. It just doesn’t seem like this is the direction you meant to go, so why don’t we just stay here and figure out a new plan of what Your Holy Church should look like?” Yeah, I got Peter then. I’ve got Christ the Son of God right in front of me, and yet, I’m wanting to put up tents for the apparitions of Moses and Elijah. Me and Peter? We prefer the familiar past to the daunting future.
But in spite of his jackassness, Peter knew what was true. And he couldn’t keep denying it. After three times of trying to, his heart finally broke, and he just couldn’t keep running away. And eventually, Peter got his redemption – times three, mind you.
As I sat contemplating all of this, I was pretty sure of what God wanted from me, so I reluctantly decided to submit to what I knew was true, and went up to participate in the rite.
Then I closed my eyes.
And we began to pray.
Then all of a sudden, I got really dizzy, and even though I knew my hands were interlocked in front of me, I couldn’t feel them any longer, and my arms felt like they were beginning to float out at my sides like I was spreading some wings. I was just sure that I was about to start floating into the air if I didn’t focus really hard on staying on the ground. Then, above the circle of people gathered, with my eyes closed, I saw a beautiful lady hovering above us, kind of pinkish and yellowish light surrounded her, with her arms spread like wings, and she just stayed there for a while. I felt that any moment, I would float right up to her – until our Deacon Paul came to me and placed his hands on my head and pushed down. I still don’t know what he was doing in that moment, so I’ll have to ask him some time. Yes, my eyes were closed, so I wasn’t seeing with physical eyes, but it was much clearer than my imagination, and I could physically FEEL what was happening.
For the first time since this process began, I felt it. I felt that other world that I used to feel at my old church. I felt like I might possibly have a place here, like I had broken through to what I’d been missing all along. I don’t know if it was Mary, or an angel, or some other saint. I don’t like to put names on things when names aren’t given. What I DO know, is that my mind NEVER would have conjured up a female, Moses or Elijah maybe, but not a female, and that in itself confirmed to me that this wasn’t coming from my own imagination. But I saw her, and she was lovely and peaceful, and I was filled with peace and confidence for the first time. I couldn’t help but remember the story of Peter, and his three reinstatements from Jesus. Now, after three terrifying rites, God had granted me this gift, this little sign that He’s guiding this process, and that my time to come into the Church is at hand. God had already brought the church family together for my heart. Over time, He had brought doctrine together for my mind. And now, He had brought this experience to anchor my spirit.
This Saturday night is Easter Vigil, when Lukus and I will be officially confirmed as Catholics, and I have great peace and confidence that God has guided every second of this journey: from Rome to that pancake breakfast, from who my sponsor has been to the personal revelations I’ve had. It’s been a hard and scary road, and in the process of it all, I’ve had to explain myself to a lot of baffled Protestants. It hasn’t been fun, and it hasn’t been easy, but I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be worth it.