My parish, The Basilica of St Mary, has an extensive program for bringing people into the Church; the Ritual Christian Initiation for Adults ( RCIA ) program. It starts at the beginning of the school year, culminates at the Easter Vigil Mass, and meets weekly or so during the time in between.
We get the entire community involved during Lent. Baskets of cards are placed at each entrance/exit of the Church; each card contains a picture of one of the RCIA candidates and a very brief profile. Directions on the back of the card urge prayer for the candidate and state that notes to the candidate can be sent by placing the note in an envelope, noting “RCIA” and the Candidate’s name on the envelope, and putting the envelope in any Mass’s collection basket.
I have taken one of these cards each of the three years I’ve been a member of the parish. A year ago, my candidate did not show up at the Easter Vigil Mass. This disappointed me. Undaunted, I took a card this year. I prayed for Pat and sent three notes to her over Lent’s six weeks. ( Pat is a fictional name, to protect privacy. )
Ellie and Loretta, my wife and a dear friend, spoke about taking a note to give to their candidates in the Easter Vigil Mass’s collection; they also spoke about trying to meet their candidates after the Mass. Thus inspired, I wrote yet another card to Pat and took it to the Vigil; I also decided to try to find her after Mass.
Signs with candidate’s names were posted on the pews identifying reserved rows for candidates and their families. Ellie, Loretta and I chose a pew only four rows behind the then-empty row reserved for Pat’s family. I knew I had a reasonable shot at identifying Pat prior to the end of Mass and finding and meeting her afterward.
As it happens, I also know Pat’s sponsor, Jane ( another fictional name ). I do not know her well, but well enough to engage in small talk. I didn’t know until seeing her in the pew that she had anything to do with Pat. “Imagine that,” I thought, “it’s certainly a small world.” Little did I know how interesting it would get soon enough.
After Mass, as people were milling in the aisles, I’m trying to get up four rows to speak to Pat. Jane approaches from the front and asks my last name. I tell her, “Jost.”
"Ah,” she says, “I thought maybe … I have someone I want you to meet.”
Of course. I know immediately she’s referring to Pat. “I want to meet her, too,” I say.
Pat notices me and Jane in the aisle, pulls herself away from the small group she is with, and turns to me, putting out her hand.
“Hi, Pat, I’m Walter,” shaking her hand.
“Pat, this is Walter Jost,” Jane says, indicating me.
“Hi. Nice to meet you. I want to thank you for your notes. I really appreciated getting them.”
“You did? That’s wonderful; thank you. I enjoyed writing them. I put another one in the collection tonight you should be sure to get.”
Pat nods, continues, “Your notes were inspirational, humorous, warm. Getting them was the best part of the program.” ( This validates the words I had heard the director of the program put in candidates’ mouths much earlier. ) “I’ve vowed to write notes to a candidate every Lent, starting next year.”
“A wonderful idea,” I stammered. Regaining some composure, I added, “I’m sure you’ll have the opportunity. Thanks very much, Pat. Happy Easter.” And I left.
Seemingly little things often make another’s day.
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