From 2006 to 2007, I went through 9 months of RCIA – the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the education and discernment process by which adults enter the Catholic Church. We met weekly to learn about the faith and the Church, familiarizing ourselves with terminology and concepts that previously seemed foreign. It was a deliberately slow but thorough process, designed to allow for reflection and consideration.
I had been curious about RCIA for years – ever since the 1999 wedding reception of two dear friends, where I was seated next to the officiating priest. He was the first person I’d ever met from Malta. But he really drew me in when he told me he was finishing up his dissertation at Catholic University, focusing on the role of imagination in faith.
In college, I double-majored in French and English, and I loved all things related to art and literature. If you bring up the topic of imagination, I will stick to you like glue. Almost needless to say, this priest and I had a lengthy, meaty conversation. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the other guests at our table.
This gentleman told me about RCIA. But looking back over my life now, I can see that this encounter was like so many others. The Lord had His hand on me, and had arranged this meeting to knock gently on the door of my heart.
On the first night of RCIA, our deacon’s wife led us in an exercise. She said something along these lines:
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Imagine you are walking on a quiet path, meandering over gentle green hills. The sun is warm but not glaring. There are light, puffy white clouds in the sky. A breeze blows across your face. You are, in every way, comfortable.
Someone is coming up behind you. You look back. It is a man. You turn to move aside but he does not push past. Instead, he looks you in the eye and smiles a friendly smile. Then, he falls in step with you. How do you feel?
As the script continues, we learn from the description of the man that this is Jesus. As I imagined the scene, I was overcome with a peace I’d never felt before. All my life, I’d seen paintings, sculptures, films – other people’s representations of the risen Christ, but I had never spent a long moment deep enough in thought to visualize Him for myself. It was a powerful experience. And a turning point for me.
I felt just like the two disciples who encounter Christ after his resurrection on the road to Emmaus.
Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”
Now, when I pray, I seek His face. I look for that same face that I saw on my walk.
What a day it will be when I can truly see Him.