By the time we were seated on our chairs in the base chapel for the Easter Vigil Mass, I had accepted the inevitable change that was undeniably upon us. Although I wasn’t thrilled with what lay ahead that evening, I wanted to make the best of it for Rich. After all, I had determined to accept God’s will in my life, and my life was intertwined with Rich’s and I deeply regretted not being able to be fully attuned to this good thing in his life.
It grieved us that Rich had not received any recommendations or suggestions during his weekly instruction of how we might maneuver through these new waters. However, Rich and I talked about it quite often and concluded we had only two options: I could attend Mass with Rich, as a show of unity (but not join the Catholic Church), or I could go to my Protestant church while he attended Mass at the Catholic one.
Rich and I mulled over the solution of dual church affiliation. We knew of couples who’d chosen that option. A group of them had formed an online inter-church ministry to promote a one-couple-two-churches approach. Their web site, www.interchurchfamilies.org, was a great help for us in sorting out our options. The members of the group encouraged husbands and wives to respect the theological differences between their Catholic and Protestant church communities. Many of the couples even attended their respective churches together, and had done so for years
Rich and I discussed this form of church affiliation, and it seemed like a dual commitment of emotional energy, miles of travel, and the juggling of service times; as a 50-something couple, Rich and I were not capable of such an energetic “unity”.
During the Easter Vigil Liturgy, as the congregation recommitted themselves to Christ, Rich and I recommitted ourselves to the Lord, as we had at our baptism. That was a reaffirming part of the Mass for me, yet while Rich recited his part as a convert, I found myself enveloped in a profound sadness. Rich had no idea how wobbly my legs felt when the service ended; I kept a firm hold on his arm as we followed the crowd of well-wishers into the fellowship hall.
While I leaned against the wall and watched, Rich was greeted by one and then another of the congregation. I was happy for him.
Suddenly, I found myself warmly greeted. The man shaking my hand was the priest Rich had been meeting. Looking into his kind eyes, I wondered why he never reached out to me during all those months of counseling my husband. Rich’s half-hearted statement to me that the priest would be glad to answer my questions, and that I might attend any of their sessions, seemed to me an afterthought because of its timing--- midway into Rich’s weekly sessions. My Protestant experience had prepared me for joint pastoral counseling; I did not understand why our marriage had not been an important factor from the beginning.
Nevertheless, this man seemed kind and genuinely interested in me. We chatted for a few moments before he moved on to converse with others.
And so, our new life in Christ had begun.
The following morning we attended our first Easter Mass at the Catholic Church we’d visited several times during the previous months.
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