March 25, 2011

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Catechumens, sponsors, candidates and kids … oh my!

Debra TomaselliOn the third Sunday in Lent, after a short pause following his homily, Father Charlie invited the catechumens, candidates and sponsors to take their places in the aisles of our church.

There was a flurry of movement as the group, scattered throughout the church, maneuvered their way past the people in the pews to the aisles.

In the aisle to our left, a middle-aged man stood in front of his sponsor, a woman with long, curly, salt-and-pepper hair. To our right, a young, clean-cut man with brown hair kissed his wife before heading to the nearest aisle to meet his sponsor, an older gentleman from our parish.

Streams of organ music faded into the background as Father Charlie led the sponsors in praying for the elect, those seeking full communion with the Church.

“Bless these eyes,” Father Charlie said, “so they may see the presence of Christ.”

The curly haired woman moved her hands in blessing over the eyes of the middle-aged man.

Similarly, the priest prayed, “Bless these hands so that they do the work of Christ.”

Sponsors were tracing the sign of the cross over the palms of the elect when I felt a tugging at my elbow.

“Mommy, Mommy,” my 6-year-old daughter whispered. “What are they doing?”

I leaned over to respond. “These people want to join our Church and become Catholic,” I said. “They are with their sponsors, and they are receiving a special blessing.”

I started to stand straight when another thought hit.

I leaned down toward Sara again. “I want to do that someday,” I whispered. “I want to help someone become a better Christian. I want to help someone become Catholic.”

As I straightened up, I heard a voice. The statement was as clear and distinct as if someone had pronounced it, but the words came from nowhere: “You already are.”

I snapped my head and glanced at my husband and our three children in the pew beside me.

“What about them?” I asked myself, suddenly realizing the significance of the lives entrusted to my care.

In an instant, I understood the importance of sharing my faith with my family.

Although my heart wanted to evangelize to the ends of the Earth, I realized that right in my own home I had the means to help someone become a better Christian, a better Catholic. Right in my own home, I had daily opportunities to love, forgive, listen and extend compassion. I didn’t have to wait for “someday.”

I never mentioned the incident to anyone, and the revelation was enough in itself.

But several months later, almost in confirmation of the prophetic pronouncement that had been made that day, a neighbor decided to join the Catholic Church and asked me to be her sponsor.

The following year, we were climbing through the congregation to take our places in the aisle. And as I made the sign of the cross over her, I couldn’t help but wonder at the marvels of God.

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is

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