Lenten sacrifice was useful, but it didn't stick.
After Easter, as my husband and I talked about our impressions of the Episcopal church (based on our visits during Lent), we had plenty of good reasons to join -- and yet somehow neither of us seemed quite ready to let go of being Catholic.
So we decided to try a different Catholic church -- a Franciscan one this time, father from our house but closer to our personal philosophy. Still Catholic but somewhat separate from the hierarchy of the diocese, Franciscan priests tend to be less politically and socially conservative (and I just made a wildly sweeping generalization, so apologies to those more knowledgeable).
Anyway, on our first Sunday at this new Catholic church, the priest began the mass by welcoming everyone to the service. As he continued, welcoming visitors from other faiths, I braced myself for what I expected to be a polite churchy way of saying that those visitors would not be welcome at the altar during communion. It's a practice that I understand (because only Catholics believe in transubstantiation, so other faiths cannot receive communion), but one that always makes me cringe.
Instead, this is what he said: "If you are visiting us today from another faith, you enrich our service with your presence."
"You enrich our service with your presence."
Wow -- didn't see that one coming. That one phrase, spoken so simply, set a completely different tone for the mass for me. Maybe it's because my grandmother never converted to my grandfather's Catholic faith -- through more than 50 years of marriage -- or maybe just because I have so many wonderful, spiritual friends who aren't Christian, much less Catholic. Whatever the reason, it was enough to open my clenched fist just enough to accept the sign of peace.
And so the search continues...