Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Do You Do When Epiphany Chalk Means Nothing to You?

What do you do when the Epiphany chalk means nothing to you?

I actually got in a teeny-tiny little fight about this with myself this year. Where do I draw the line when my ignorance clashes with expectation. There are so many traditions in the Catholic Church, and keeping up with them, for a convert, is like speaking another language. The tradition of the blessing of the chalk on Epiphany, for one. I had never heard of it, nor did I understand its use or purpose. Not eating meat on Fridays.  Or midnight mass. There are so many new things to get accustomed to as a convert. I remember when we were in RCIA.... the teacher brought up
Holy Days of Obligation.... crickets.
Receiving the Eucharist on the tongue....crickets.
Additionally, as a convert, it can be so overwhelming because there are so many people to know about that I truly knew so little about...  Who is Fulton Sheen? Father Robert Barron? Cardinal Dolan? I literally knew who the Pope was, and Mother Theresa, and that was about it.

So, what is one to do when you feel like singing the song, "It means nothing to me"? What do I do when I just feel like it's all too much?!

If you literally have no clue as to the what or why, here are five options, as I see it:

1. First, you can learn, grow, and get used to it. The first option is the best option. So what if you're a convert? That's not a good excuse.  You need to learn about it, so it does mean something to you.  You should have technically asked all of your questions in your RCIA like a good catechumen. But, as I know from experiencing an amazing RCIA in the D.C./Baltimore diocese, there is no way you would cover everything you need to know in a matter of months, even in the best RCIA class.

2. Second, give yourself time.  Just like starting a new school (I'm remembering my first week of college, here), there is NO way- even if you were the best of the bestest students in your orientation week- that you would know where every classroom is, or where to get the best ice-cream on campus, or who to take for English 101.  It takes time. I was blessed with a husband who jumped in with both feet, reading any and every book he could get his hands on that had to do with Catholicism. I did a little bit of reading on the lives of saints, but not much beyond that. With our faith, considering its richness, don't beat yourself up if you don't "get" everything. It takes time.

3. Third, give yourself grace. When the first two options just aren't cutting it, give yourself grace. If you've already learned twenty new things this week, and you've gone to twenty new events this month, and you've started twenty organizations this year, STOP.  REST. Give yourself a little break. Because all people everywhere- even Catholics- have a lot on their plate. And YOU don't have to be the one to do it all. That's what a community is for.

4. Fourth, take responsibility if and when you can. Since we are a body, every member of the body has a job to do. The big toe and the head are two very different parts, and yes, the head is slightly more important than the toe. If you are in a leadership role, (in your parish, or even in your home-- motherhood counts, of course, as a leadership role!) it would be irresponsible not to learn and grow and take up your cross, in time, when you can.

5. Fifth and finally, discuss it with your husband or wife.  If you are married, an issue can easily be cleared up with a conversation. If your conscience feels strongly about something, but your husband (or wife) seems extremely nonchalant about the issue, talk and pray about it.  Perhaps their nonchalance is a sign that God wants you to stop worrying about the issue for now.  A lot of times, my husband and I feel really differently about an issue, and after talking about it, we have a clearer direction on where we need to go and what we need to do!

So. There you have it. I think it's a mixed bag, and if you simple cannot incorporate all of the feast days, traditions, and prayers, I think it is ok. But next year, try to add in more of them. And as a responsible adult, it is your job to make sure your children are getting the support they need in their faith and in their personal journey of growth toward God. And as a faithful spouse, it is important to discuss the various options together as a couple.

To close, here is a good explanation of Epiphany in all its glory!  @ Aleteia

Cross-posting at the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers

photo credit
from here

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