Today is the fifth Sunday of Easter. Happy Easter, everyone! How great is it to belong to a Church that believes Easter is more than one day of eating ham and chocolate - even if you do remember to go to Mass?
I confess I was one of the many faithful that thought of Easter in just those terms. Coming Home to Rome has involved me studying and learning as much about my faith as I can and I am so glad (now) that being in the Bible Belt of California was the catalyst for my learning. I had to find out how to answer people who stopped me in the produce aisle of Raley's to ask me if I was saved or who looked at my shopping cart full of Halloween Candy and wanted to know why Catholic Pagans celebrated Satan's Birthday (no, I am not kidding).
Grateful as I was for the wonderful catechesis I received from the good sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet back at Christ the King and Carondelet High School, I also knew I needed to find out what the heck these strange 'once saved, always saved' people were talking about. I was never in danger of leaving the Church - I recognize heresy when I hear it - but I was in danger of committing the sin of smacking them across the top of their heads and yelling "Oh for God's Sake, WAKE UP!".
Changing from a defensive Catholic to a baby apologist was not easy. It goes against my nature to suffer fools lightly, let me tell you. However, one of the greatest lessons I learned came from St Thomas Aquinas and the Dominican Order. Their firm belief in the necessity of charitable discourse forced me to learn to do just that - to be able to say, 'Hmmm, that is an interesting point however I believe you are overlooking this or that...' rather than, "What are you? A DUMMY?". In other words, it makes ME a better woman, a better citizen and a better Catholic because I am not just trying to win a debate. I am trying to get to heaven and, unlike my fallen away brethren, I know it is absolutely possible to lose one's salvation. The Bible says so, the Holy Spirit says so (through the Teachings of Holy Mother Church ) and more important JESUS says so all throughout all four Gospels. I don't want to win a debate and lose my soul in the process.
Neither do I want to be St Jerome and have to carry around a stone, hitting myself as a form of penance because I am such a bad tempered person. "If not for the stone, Jerome" sounds better than "If not for the rock, Leslie".
This morning, the first Reading will be from the Acts of the Apostles. We will read and study about one of the greatest conversions of all time. A man, steeped in the Holy Scriptures, went from wanting to kill people like me to wanting to be in the same Church I am in today. Saul, putting himself under the tutelage of Barnabas, becomes Paul through the power of Baptism. Amazing.
I am a baptized and confirmed Catholic Out Loud. I hope, every day, I can remember my responsibility to God and to His Church. I pray, every day, for those who have walked away from The Eucharist because of a false but basically easy peasy chicken squeeze theology. And I pray, every day, that I will not lose my salvation but stay close to Him who saved me, who saves me and who will save me - just like St Paul wrote.