In July of 2005, I was enrolled as a candidate in the RCIA program. As I was sitting in church for Mass one Sunday I became frustrated and walked out. I couldn’t bear to sit there, watching everything, and not participate again. I desperately wanted to partake in the Body and Blood of Christ.
The next day I got on the phone and called Shirley, a secular Discalced Carmelite who ran the Faith Formation program at Our Lady of Loreto in Foxfield, Colorado. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was something like, “I can’t sit through another Mass without receiving Communion. I don’t fully understand the Catholic view of justification, I don’t get the Mary thing, but I do understand the magisterium and I will submit and figure these things out later. I would like to be received into the Church” I told her. Anticipating an argument I said, “I have been teaching against the Catholic church for years, I know what I am submitting to.” “Is there any possible way?” I was just about writhing in my hunger for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and God gave me brief consolation as she responded in her normal peaceful tone, “Let me call you back.”
Shortly after that call, my cell phone rang and it was Shirley. Although I was bursting with the need to hear good news, I realized that I had only been in RCIA a short time and I was prepared for a letdown. Shirley said, “We have permission to receive you into the Church.” I was astounded and overjoyed! – Even typing this now has brought an unexpected rush of emotion. – She continued, “Come to the Church this Saturday and you will be confirmed and received.” After I picked myself up off the floor I arranged my schedule for Saturday and other important matters Shirley scheduled for me that week.
Another divine twist in this experience is that even prior to entering the RCIA program, I had begun to explore Catholic mysticism in order to find answers about my own prayer life. The author that had the greatest impact on me was St. Teresa of Avila, the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Since then, and even now, there is nothing I read (beyond scripture) that brings me peace like St. Teresa. Though her writings run very contrary to my preferred method of thinking (anyone who knows her knows what I am talking about), she always brings the light and love of Christ to me in profound ways.
On Saturday, July 16th, 2005, I was received into full communion with Christ’s Church. You can imagine that I was delighted to find out later that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. To this day, Discalced Carmelite spirituality has been the most influential spiritual sustenance in my life and has led me to know and love Christ in ways that I could have never imagined.
To those who have faithfully kept the works and spirit of Carmel alive in the Church – thank you, and have a happy feast day tomorrow (or today depending on where you are around the globe)!
PS: Thank you, Mary. And thanks again Shirley!
Art for this post on Our Lady of Mount Carmel and My Conversion to Catholicism: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Pietro Novelli, 1641, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.