Vigil of the First Sunday of Advent

IMG_7113The photo is from my walk on Thanksgiving.  It was such a beautiful day.

Tonight I will head to Mass.  Every year as I enter the church on the Saturday Vigil Mass prior to the first Sunday of Advent, I am reminded of a momentous event, now twenty years ago.

I went back to the church when I was sober 7 years.  That alone is a whole story, but I will spare you here.  It was not something I ever thought would happen, it wasn’t anything I even WANTED to happen.  But happen it did, thanks be to God.

It took a full two years for me to muster up the courage to go to confession and try to re-enter the church by its terms, not mine.  I walked into that church on that Saturday afternoon.  I was not mindful of the liturgical calendar, so I was surprised by the purple and the beautiful darkness of the church.  After waiting in a long line, I entered the confessional and simply said to the priest “I am returning to the church after 25 years, I have no idea what to do.”  He said “Take a deep breath, and then pass out.”  I had to laugh.  I chose to sit in front of him and make my confession.   I told him that for all those years I had denied my Catholicism, sometimes going as far as to deny God.  I told him that for me to deny Catholicism was to deny who I am as a person.  He talked about the readings for the first Sunday in Advent that year, about the potter and the clay.  It was all perfect.

I left that confessional knowing that I was loved and forgiven by God.  I stayed at church and prayed and later went to Mass and received Holy Communion!  It was like a dream.  I had been estranged from my true home for so long.  As I drove home, I said a prayer of gratitude, and for the first (and last) time in my life, I thanked God that I am an alcoholic.  In the elation of that moment, it seemed that my alcoholism and sobriety were what brought me to that point.  And that point felt like a pinnacle.

I am still grateful.  I am grateful for the fact that I can evolve in my faith and find great teachers along the way.  I have learned so much in the last year from a young pastor from Peru.  Many startling revelations have come to me from his homilies.  That was not something I ever expected.

Just a few weeks ago, his words settled something that has disturbed me for at least 10 years.  Why, oh why am I working so hard to keep myself afloat when I should be doing something for God?  Something more meaningful?  Something that felt more like a “calling?”  I heard words to the effect that we do everything for God.  We do everything with great love.  We all do what we do, it is what makes the world go ’round.  I am doing something that is important to some of the “least of our brethren.”  I don’t know what could be better than that.

We are truly blessed to be in a time when our Church leadership has passed from one of the great intellects of the 20th Century to a new kind of leadership.  A Servant Leadership.  It is a radical departure.  It is shaking up a lot of people.  I have to admit that I am one of those.  It is good to be shaken.  We can get too comfortable if not.

Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction,” they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith.    — Pope Francis

This entry was posted in Family, Gratitude, History, Mass, Prayer, Sobriety, The Church. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Vigil of the First Sunday of Advent

  1. Kelly says:

    Mary- I am so glad you came back to the Catholic faith. There have been periods of my life in which I have not gone to church, too. Periods where I would only go for Christmas and Easter. They were never long periods, but I’ve found that any time away really can be too long. Now, since the birth of my son seven years ago, I’ve been more committed to my faith. He is about to have his first reconciliation and it reminds me that I need to go to confession, too. The last time I had a confession was when I was a teenager. I am nervous to go, honestly, because I am a sinner.

    Anyway, I’m happy for you!

    • YOu are the perfect person to go to confession. It is a sacrament FOR sinners. It is something that I no longer want to miss because it is so wonderful. I’m not trying to talk you into going, or am I?

  2. Syd says:

    I am glad that you are comforted by your church. I know how much faith means to you. And that photo shows a place of great peace.

  3. Annette says:

    I think, and this is purely just my opinion based on my experience…I think, that once you experience the grace of God, the forgiveness and acceptance of God, especially when you are at a very low point and you aren’t expecting these great lavish gifts to wash over you, it makes reading Gods word (ie: the portion in the New Testament about the potter and the clay) all the more beautiful and life sustaining. It truly does become food for our soul, it nourishes us. Thanks for sharing this today…and as I have said before, I am all about reading whatever parts of your spiritual journey you want to share! I LOVE your posts about your faith. Just sayin… pressure of course.

    • I would love to write more about my faith, but I feel I can’t just scribble off a few words in a hurry, the way I usually write my blog. I have to be careful so to not put falsehoods or inaccuracies out into the universe. There are enough of those already out there!

      • Annette says:

        I think what I love about your faith posts is that you are sharing your heart. A deep portion of your heart. My thoughts are that you just write it, let your heart experience flow out onto the virtual paper. God is big enough to handle any inaccuracies. There is enough technical writing out in the working. But not enough about what Ash Wednesday or Advent or Lent mean to my friend Mary.

  4. Ms S says:

    Tears came to m eyes hearing about your road to confession. Thanks for sharing x

  5. Mary LA says:

    Hoping you have a peaceful and happy Advent season! Pope Francis is challenging many people –.

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