Each year when the crocuses bloom I think back to my full initiation into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 1997. All adults preparing for initiation into the Catholic Church — converts from other Christian faiths; non-Christian converts; and those who, like me, were baptized Catholic but never had their First Communion nor had been confirmed — must attend R.C.I.A. classes in order to learn about Catholic beliefs and traditions and hopefully, in the process, strengthen their faith and grow close to God.
R.C.I.A. stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. The classes I attended started in September 1996. In one of those early sessions our catechist gave each of us a crocus bulb and told us to plant it in our garden. It was to be a symbol of us, of our faith. Just as the crocus lies in wait, gathering nourishment from the surrounding soil, until it bursts forth into a new life in Spring, so too would we lie in wait, gathering intellectual and spiritual nourishment through our study, through the support of our classmates, through the prayers of our family and faith community, until the moment of our baptism*, confirmation, and our First Holy Communion when our faith blossoms, we become a new creation, and we are able to experience a closeness with Our Lord as we have never experienced before.
*Only those from the R.C.I.A. class (and those in the equivalent class for children) who have not been baptized into a Christian faith before get baptized at the Easter Vigil. As I reflect on my experience those many years ago, I remember the stirring moment when one of my classmates was baptized. It seemed as though I could see the moment the Holy Spirit came down, just by looking at the expression on the man’s face. I could feel the Holy Spirit there with us. It was a profoundly moving experience! It wasn’t until our class met for one last time a week later that I learned I wasn’t the only one in our class who had the exact same experience at that moment.
A second moving experience that evening, this time all my own, came after I was anointed at my Confirmation. When the priest embraced me it was as if Jesus himself wrapped his arms around me and a heavy burden lifted from me, one that I didn’t realize I was carrying until then.
As I look on the beauty of the crocus, as it blooms this Holy Week, I think about the profound effect my faith in Our Lord has in my life. And I pray that each and every one of His children will feel His presence in their lives, and experience a spiritual rebirth this Easter season.