Easter Vigil marks the anniversary of my entry into the Catholic Church. Here are ten things I found helpful when approaching my reception into the Church. I hope they are helpful to any of you out there who will be becoming Catholic this year! Several of the items on this list are helpful for us all to remember, no matter how many years we have been a part of the Catholic Faith.
1. Go to Confession
This is a good idea for anyone as we approach Easter. Let us make sure we are turning towards God in our lives, with our choices and our heart, so we are ready to receive Him and celebrate the joys of Easter Sunday. Let us bring our struggles before God, and let Him help us change. Let us get right with our God.
2. Go to as Many Services as You Can
The days leading up to Easter Sunday can be a profoundly spiritual experience for someone entering the Catholic Church. Try to attend the Triduum services. They help put our faith into context as we approach this most significant celebration. It gives you time to pray, to connect with God, and to prepare your heart.
3. Look around
When you stand in front of the congregation at the Easter Vigil in the moments after you are anointed with oil and confirmed into the Catholic Church, take a moment to look around you. Take a moment to appreciate that you are in full union with the Church established by Jesus Himself 2,000 years ago. The Church that has remained connected to its history and its source through apostolic succession. You are connected, in the most powerful way on earth, to the roots of your Christian Faith.
4. Take Pictures
I am so thankful to have pictures from the night of my Confirmation. I can just see the joy on my face. It takes me right back there, right back to that moment when I knew I was finally, and fully home — as much as I am going to be before heaven. Whatever your pat to get here, it’s worth recording and remembering and celebrating. It’s a hugely significant moment in your life. Document it.
When my own Confirmation approached, I took some time to look back and was so thankful for all the bits and pieces along the way that led me to find peace, and truth, and such a firm foundation. So, take some time. What was your path like to get here? Was it smooth or difficult? Did you wrestle through doubts or did you walk a path of peace? Where do you see God’s hand leading you? Who were the people who helped you along the way? How would you tell your story? However you got here, it’s beautiful. It’s amazing. Give it the weight it deserves, and be sure to give thanks.
6. Get Connected with Other Converts
One of the things that helped me the most, both when things were good and when things were difficult in my transition to the Catholic Church, was being connected with other converts. Regardless of how similar or different our backgrounds were, I found I had so much in common with those who walked the path before I did. This gave me encouragement and strength. It still does to this day. This connection can take many forms. I read stories of converts in books like Journeys Home. I joined the Coming Home Network, which provides resources, community, and articles online and in print for those of us making our way back to Rome. Watch Journey Home episodes on EWTN. Keep an eye open for other converts in your parish. We all share a common bond. Let’s continue to walk alongside each other even after Confirmation.
7. Go Big
One of the most fun things for me around the time of my Confirmation was getting caught up on my Catholic “swag.” I was so excited to receive some Rosaries. We got a Mary statue for our backyard. We also bought some books on the saints and put up a crucifix in our home as well as a holy water font. We had things blessed by a priest. So, if you are feeling inspired, add some of those items to your own life and home. They are tools to help us keep our faith in our hearts and minds at all times. They are tools to help us reflect, remember, and pray. And, at least in my case at the time, I had some serious catching up to do.
8. Study up on Easter Vigil
Friends, if you have never been to an Easter Vigil service before, it is amazing, beautiful, and symbolic. It is also long. It will help so much if you can take some time to understand what is happening and why at each part of the service. Here’s a primer on the USCCB website. I found I was able to embrace the beauty of the Catholic Church once I understood what it was. You will be able to get the most out of the service if you do too.
9. Be Patient
If you are already connected to your parish community — great! If you don’t yet feel connected, I encourage you to keep pressing on. Sometimes it takes time to get to know people in a Catholic parish. This is a huge, global church. Depending on the background you are coming from, and depending on the parish you attend, many things might be different from what you’re used to. There might not be an active home/small group structure, there might not be donuts and coffee after Mass. But there will be people there that you will connect with. It might just take some more time. My husband, JP, and I have found some very dear friends in our parish and in the Catholic community in our town. We recognize people at Mass on Sunday and stay for a bit and chat. It didn’t happen overnight, but somewhere between year 1 and year 2 we got there. We weren’t feeling lonely anymore. Not only do I now know I’m spiritually home, but going to Mass actually feels like home in the way of the fact that our parish family is there with us too. Be patient. Connection will come.
Whether you will be alone with your sponsor at Mass on Easter vigil, or if there will be pews filled with people who have come alongside you on that day, your reception into the Catholic Church is something to celebrate. Celebrate in whatever way is right for you. A dinner before Mass, some time in Adoration, taking a walk, announcing it to the world. Stay true to yourself, but celebrate. Celebrate the beauty of Easter, the beauty of our Faith, and the beauty of crossing the bridge into full unity with the Catholic Church.