Once again, for the 5th time, I turned toward the Catholic Church. I knew the RCIA “drill” better than most Catholics and not a few priests…having attempted to go through it four times already.
For a long six months, since my husband and I had agreed that I would enter the Catholic Church, RCIA had been defined by its restrictions that prevented my baptism. I had knocked on every door*…Fr. Ron, Deacon Dave, Fr. Kevin…pleading my case to get baptized and then to complete the RCIA program. What the Catholics were not willing to do, the Protestants were. And they did.
Baptism had required six months of my attention. That left me six months more for the RCIA class. While I still hated the delay, it was easier than trying to find a way to enter the church before next year at Easter.
There were just a few loose ends to attend to.
After the trip to Los Angeles for my baptism, Fr. Kevin had surprised me with a telephone call. Unbeknownst to me, he had decided to reach out to a church expert on canon law to see how to manage the baptism question raised by my marriage. Tactfully, he asked what the canon lawyer needed to know. Were my husband and I still having sex? I forgave Father. He was caught in the same legalism that entangled me. And I answered his question.
Once again Fr. Kevin asked if my husband would consent to being married in the Catholic Church…a small private ceremony. I agreed to ask. When I knew the answer, I promised to call Father back. Before hanging up, I had be honest with him. I let him know what had transpired since our first meeting. I had been baptized.
Fr. Kevin’s voice registered quiet surprise. He asked the facts of the baptism, confirming that it was recognized as legitimate by the Catholic Church. Punctuating the reality, he said, “So you are a baptized Protestant.” I assented and said, again, that I would get back to him.
Even after being happily married for forty years, asking the “M” question is not something you just blurt out to your husband in the middle of shopping for groceries or during the commercial break of the Monday Night Football game.
I waited patiently for an opportune time, I asked, and I got the answer I had expected. He didn’t have to explain. We were already married. He had never practiced the Catholic faith. He didn’t consider himself Catholic, infant baptism to the contrary. And he didn’t feel compelled to perform a Catholic ceremony.
I called Fr. Kevin’s office and left a message with his secretary. Months ago, he had suggested I might be able to begin RCIA and enter the church in December, before next Easter. Was that still possible? Days passed. I left a voice message on his phone, just in case the earlier message had been lost. Days were turning into weeks.
Clearly, my baptism had nullified his offer. And without a Catholic marriage, I still didn’t know where that left me. But I needed closure. If Father couldn’t bow out gracefully and honestly, I would take care of it.
Good evening, Father Kevin,
As you suggested I did get a chance to discuss my husband’s willingness to renew our marriage vows in the Catholic church. He is not favorable to this idea, and I am not going to press it any further. It will only exacerbate his prejudices.
I left you a phone message two weeks ago. I called and am writing here only to convey the above. If you have lost interest in or do not have the ability to deal with my situation from this point forward, I completely understand. Your inquiry with Church canon authorities was generous, and I appreciate that effort. Unless I hear otherwise, I will operate under the assumption that the matter is closed.
Sincerely, Jane Jimenez
That was the last loose end. Now that baptism was off the table, I didn’t have to concern myself with finding a priest willing to “break the RCIA rules.” I would enroll and take the classes for the next six months. Finally…then…I would become Catholic.
Wanting to study with the people I would worship with, I carefully considered the RCIA program to attend. Two parishes were equal distance from my house.
At one parish, I thought back to a mass held in a school gymnasium, for their new parish in formation. The priests and lay members did an amazing job of turning the gym into a church in every respect. At the conclusion of mass, the deacon came to the podium with announcements. Smiling enthusiastically, he called out to the congregation, “Well, we all know what the most important thing happening today is, don’t we?” I was stumped. I thought we had just experienced the most important thing of the day. He corrected me as he raised his arms in excitement and proclaimed to everyone, “Soccer!”
I knew his heart was in the right place. But his body seemed to be in the wrong place…a few feet from the altar where Christ had been celebrated less than ten minutes ago. It seemed an unfortunate way of ending mass…like wrapping up a wedding reception by toasting the winners of the Super Bowl.
At the other parish, their recent mass had been the most reverent of any I had ever seen. I knew where I wanted to be.
I’m nearing home, I told myself. Finally. What could go wrong? I couldn’t think of a thing.
*All names have been changed.
NEXT: Fr. Walter, RCIA v.5
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