At the end of RCIA tonight, one of the team leaders was talking about when the catechumens were going to receive their first reconciliation. It is scheduled to be the Monday of Holy Week.
"That's April 18," said S.
S. sits at the front right table with the girl I am sponsoring and me. He is one of my favorites, if I am allowed to have favorites. He absolutely fascinates me, and I've learned so much from him, and about him. He used to be a Fundamentalist Christian, turned New Age, turned more orthodox Christian and found his way to the Catholic Church. He used to be an English professor, used to be married, is getting an annulment, is extremely well-read and very sharp. He now lives with his cat, and works for an insurance company. His Protestant parents can't believe he's becoming Catholic, but he's very good-humored about the whole thing.
"Yes," said someone from the back, finally confirming his date, "it's April 18th."
"Nice job," I whispered to him with a smile, "knowing the date so fast!"
"I was hoping it was that day," he whispered back.
"Why's that?" I asked.
He started to write something on the top of his paper. I barely contained my curiosity, but some handwriting cannot be read upside down. He slid the paper towards me. It read, It is my daughter's birthday.
"Your daughter!" My whisper was getting louder, and my smile broader. "I didn't know you had a daughter! How old will she be?"
"She would have been five," he said. "She was born stillborn."
I instinctively put my hand on my heart, and smiled at him. My heart ached and simultaneously rejoiced for a man whose daughter died, and, on the fifth anniversary of her death, will be released from his past sins through his future- membership in the Catholic Church and participation in her life-giving sacraments.
My hand felt my heart leap, and I reflexively prayed the Magnificat:"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!"
I smiled at S., and he smiled back, as the team leader continued to talk about our retreat, confession and the preparations before Holy Week: before S., the girl I am sponsoring, the resident med student, the married couple, and the two soon-to-be-Catholic husbands in RCIA at St. Gertie's, as well as the hundreds of thousands of other soon-to-be-Catholics around the world, finally come home and join the Church at Easter.
God's grace in people's lives never ceases to amaze me, and how, even on the crooked paths of our lives, he gives us glimpses of the final victory. Even death, you see, isn't absolute.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
--T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"