By Barb Arland-Fye
As Bishop Martin Amos confirmed 14 new Catholics during the Easter Vigil in Davenport’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, words from his homily echoed in my mind. “Christ is not in a tomb; he is risen. He is here.”
Taking pictures close up, I had the privilege of seeing the reaction on the faces of these individuals from different ethnic groups, backgrounds and faith journeys as they professed faith in the Catholic Church.
In the still of the night, a sense of peace enveloped the cathedral where several hundred of us were gathered in Christ’s name. We were present because we chose to be. I experienced God’s presence among us in a very palpable way.
Bishop Amos spoke of the many ways we encounter Christ: in the person of the priest, worshipping together at Mass, receiving the sacraments, reading Scripture, serving one another, in our relationships, and in the joys and sorrows of everyday life.
And Christ reminded me, through the wisdom of a 12-year-old girl, not to become so preoccupied as to forget to encounter God in my daily routines. Precious Bradley, a sixth-grader, told me after the Easter Vigil that joining the Catholic Church “lets me know that God is with me all of the time, even when I’m not at church.”
On Easter Sunday I returned to the cathedral to interview two sisters who also had joined the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil. The Vietnamese Mass they were attending hadn’t ended yet. Waiting in the vestibule with a few parents and their playful toddlers, I could hear the congregation singing via a broadcast system. I don’t know Vietnamese, but the voices projected such a heartfelt sense of faith!
The sisters, Lena, 12, and Lele Nguyen, 16, were grateful to be joining other members of their family — and friends — in the Catholic faith. “I wanted to learn about God and get closer to him,” Lele said.
But it isn’t just newcomers who’ve allowed me to witness faith in bloom this spring, along with the tulips and the trees. On Holy Thursday while singing with the choir at my parish, Our Lady of the River in LeClaire, I wondered how to gracefully leave my place to accompany my older son Colin for the washing of the feet. But in a moment of grace, my 16-year-old son Patrick accompanied his 24-year-old brother, who is autistic, to the foot of the altar so that Father Joe Wolf, our pastor, could wash their feet.
I’d never been able to coax Patrick to participate in the ritual. But gradually, he’s becoming more comfortable expressing his faith, and in looking out for his brother. “I did it because I thought he’d want me to do it,” Patrick said later. Colin was thrilled.
Singing with the choir during Holy Week was another way in which I had the joy of encountering Christ. Our singing, in unison, in harmony, tapped into my awareness of God.
Bishop Amos said in his Easter Vigil homily that many people in the world do not realize Christ is not in the tomb. They do not realize God is within us and among us. That revelation will only happen if we see with the eyes of faith and listen with the ears of the heart.