By BRYAN BLACKMON, Special To The Bulletin | Published April 16, 2009
Prior to Easter of 2005, most Easters for me were about the same—an opportunity to buy a new shirt and tie—dress the kids in new spring clothes—hide some plastic eggs in the back yard—relish in the kids’ joy of searching and finding those hidden treasures—head off to Sunday services at church—come home and let the kids re-hide the eggs for the grown-ups. All of the things that the secular world promotes about Easter were accomplished. Easter was over as quickly as it arrived, with little preparation, little expectation and little lasting conversion.
All of this changed in the fall of 2004 when I finally responded to God’s call—His invitation to a deeper, more personal relationship with Him—to say yes to Christ to live a more Christ-filled life—to say yes to unite with my family in faith—to say yes to the tradition-rich Catholic Church.
I was saying yes to many things. Looking back on it, I was really saying yes to only one thing—to open my heart to be filled with the love of Christ. Every other yes came as a result.
In practical terms, I said yes to begin the RCIA process. I soon discovered that due to an annulment, my journey to Easter would be somewhat longer than most. After some initial disappointment, I accepted the fact that I would not come into the Catholic Church at Easter of 2005. Nonetheless, the journey with the catechumens and other candidates was wonderful. Holy Week and the Easter Vigil of 2005 were beautiful and wonder-filled. Even though I was mostly looking on, I celebrated with each of my brothers and sisters as they received the Easter sacraments of baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist. I celebrated in their joy, even though my journey was incomplete.
In the fall of 2005 another group of inquirers arrived, having responded with their “yes.” Their preparation for Easter began and mine continued. As Lent approached, it again became apparent that I still would not be able to be received into the church at the 2006 Easter Vigil. Through this journey, I came to realize that things happen in God’s time, not ours. I learned about patience and understanding.
As Easter approached, like the year before, I was filled with nothing but happiness and joy in anticipation of being at the Vigil again as this class of catechumens and candidates received the Easter sacraments. During the Vigil, as the candidates were being confirmed, I was again filled with joy. But something was creeping over me. What was this feeling? What started out as joy began to turn to sadness—a selfish sort of sadness—a sadness that I was again being left behind and left out; a sadness that my journey to Easter was still incomplete. Surely, these feelings couldn’t be coming from the person who had begun to trust in God and in His plan. What happened to the joy that I was experiencing only moments before? How could I be sad? How could I be so selfish? Then it hit me! For heaven’s sake, it’s Easter! Christ is risen! Praise God! How could I not be happy, believing in this Good News? My tears of selfish sadness gave way to tears of joy as I witnessed these newly confirmed Catholic Christians receive the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
During Communion, I was approaching the altar to receive my normal arms-crossed blessing, but something was different. I was different. As I looked into the eyes of the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, I saw something different. I saw the love of Christ in his eyes looking back into mine. I saw the love of the community sharing in my love of and longing for Christ. He and I embraced and the love of Christ poured into me. I have never felt more in communion with Christ and the church than I did at that moment. It was as if Christ met me at the altar to tell me that He loved me. I thought, “If this is what the Real Presence in the Eucharist is like, give me more of that.” Christ is indeed risen, Alleluia.
I am happy to say that I did finally become Catholic on February 18, 2007. That was also a day filled with the outpouring of the love of Christ, the love of family, the love of community—another day that will live with me forever … but that’s a story for another time.
Bryan Blackmon and his wife, Nancy, have two children, Avery and Greer. He is active in St. Thomas Aquinas Parish as a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, RCIA sponsor and leader of a small faith group. He is blessed to be a part of this faith-filled community of disciples of Christ.