We collapsed into chairs at the kitchen table with tall glasses of ice water. Unwinding after a long, brisk walk around the park, we chatted casually, two college roommates catching up on life.
Soon our light discussion turned more serious. Frustrated with her job, struggling to get pregnant, and generally disheartened with many facets of her life, Cindy was seeking peace and joy.
And then came the moment. She looked me in the eyes and said, “You know, during our college years you didn’t even go to church. And now it seems like every time I talk to you, you guys are involved in some new project at your parish, and you just seem so … happy.” It was a lead-in statement, one that would be followed by a simple, direct question: “So what changed?”
I paused, trying not to look as if I didn’t quite know what to say. I took a breath, trying not to be paralyzed by what I sensed was an important moment. I prayed, “Come, Holy Spirit.” And I dove in.
She heard that it was not one big event that had awakened my faith, but that God had been reaching out to me and my husband in a million ways: through people he put in our path every day, the birth of our children, and our new parish where the Holy Spirit was so alive. She heard how the Lord led me bit by bit to a place where this self-proclaimed control freak could give him one tiny “yes” to open the door. And how, in his goodness and generosity, he led me to conversion and hope.
We talked for hours. Amid tears, she explored her fears and doubts about God and the faith. “How do you know God loves us? How do you just trust him like that?”
I shared what I could, but I knew I was being asked to do more. I was being called to extend an invitation. So I finished with, “You know, Cyn, you have a great parish here in town. You guys should come to Mass with us in the morning.” She shrugged and mumbled a “maybe.”
Imagine our surprise, then, the next morning when my husband and I came downstairs for Mass and found Cindy and her husband ready and waiting. We all quietly got into the car, and my husband squeezed my hand. We had no idea what would come.
Well, it turns out it was Good Shepherd Sunday. So every reading and prayer, the homily, and the music all were geared around Jesus welcoming back the lost sheep. I cried my way through Mass. Outside, I embraced her and told her, “If you don’t think that was for you, you’re crazy!” We vowed to pray for our friends as we left for home that day.
Several weeks later, the first letter came — a letter from a pretty excited college roommate that shared, “You know, there always seemed to be something else we could be doing on Sunday mornings, but now that we’ve been going to Mass every week, I can’t imagine missing it.” Speechless, I resolved to pray harder.
A little more time passed, and my phone rang one day. “Work is going so much better, and I’m totally dealing with problems differently. And you’re not going to believe this: We’re going to have a baby!” Then the next call a few weeks later: “We definitely want to get this baby baptized. And I think I want to come into the Church.” After I caught my breath, I told her to find, without delay, the contact listed with the letters “RCIA” in her parish bulletin.
There was one more call, this one sharing a realization. Looking at the calendar, Cindy had seen that Easter that year, the day when she would respond to God’s call to her heart and enter the Catholic Church, was exactly one year to the day from the day we sat at her kitchen table and talked about the faith. The day when she gave her own tiny “yes” to God. It served as a beautiful and powerful confirmation.
That Easter, my entire family was there to watch Cindy receive her first Communion and Confirmation, celebrating with her parents, husband, and new baby daughter. We were there to give thanks to Jesus, the Good Shepherd who had been calling her name all along.
God wants us to know the reason for our hope. You never know when he is going to introduce you to someone new who needs your witness. Or maybe that someone is a person you have known forever, a close friend or family member who has God working on their heart and is just missing that final nudge. Someone who just needs an invitation.
Around the world this Easter, there will be a host of new additions to our Catholic family. Each of them has a story. And tucked into most of those stories are people who — in the middle of their own faults and weaknesses — witnessed to them, shared the Truth, sent them a book, prayed unceasingly, and invited them to come and see.
To all of our new brothers and sisters in the faith: Thank you for seeking the peace and joy of God and our Church. And welcome home.