Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Weekend

If you've been following this blog lately, you can probably guess that this was the most wonderful Easter for me.

My family came to visit me in DC for the first time and my boyfriend entered the Catholic Church!

This was my family's first time meeting Frank and also meeting my twin sister Lillian's boyfriend, Matt. Matt is doing Teach for America in Texas. Frank and I picked him up from the airport on Friday before my family arrived. The boys spent pretty much the entire weekend with my family.

I woke up at 7 am on Good Friday and couldn't fall back asleep. I lay awake in bed thinking over and over, "My family is getting here today!" Needless to say, I was excited. They drove all the way from Chicago to see me and arrived in DC around 4 pm.

I spent Good Friday morning making our traditional Hot Cross Buns. I always use the Tasha Tudor recipe and it is delicious. It's also time-consuming, which is why I only make them once a year.

The dough rising for yummy buns
I made three batches, so we ate them on Good Friday and then for breakfast the next morning. We usually hold that hot cross buns are the only thing you can eat on Good Friday, although this year we also had pizza because the kids were pretty ravenous after traveling all day.

Littlest sister Angela (age 7) woke up bright and early on Holy Saturday to help me frost the third batch. Here she is in her pajamas. She loves to bake and is quite the little helper.

For some reason the buns came out really flat this year, instead of nicely fluffy as they usually do. My mom thinks it's because of the humidity. They still tasted delicious! My family couldn't get enough of that frosting.

Saturday was one of the most awesome days of my life. During the day, my family went to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. It's right here in DC and it's very close to the Catholic University of America. What an awesome place. They have beautiful replicas of all the most famous Holy Land sites, complete with mementos or relics from those places. It brought back memories of my life-changing trip to Israel. I had so much fun showing the sites to my family and describing my experiences at the original sites last March.

After our tour of the monastery and the holy sites, we went for a walk in the monastery gardens. It was beautiful! Tulips everywhere, blue skies above and statues of Our Lady and the saints all around. I'll put up pictures at some point. My parents love to pray the Rosary together as a family so that's what we did. It was the perfect place for it. We just walked around the gardens, looking at statues and praying aloud together. It was so nice, like a little Easter pilgrimage.

After that, we stopped by the CIC and then had lunch at Potbelly's. Frank and I skipped out early to go to rehearsal for Easter Vigil that night. 

In case you were wondering, I'm not Frank's Confirmation sponsor. It was actually pretty important to us that he ask someone else. Things can get real tricky when you become the spiritual mentor for a person you're dating so Frank asked a wonderful priest named Father Kerry to be his sponsor instead. But Father Kerry couldn't be there so Frank asked me to stand in for him.

At the rehearsal, we practiced the Confirmation ceremony. Each candidate for Confirmation goes forward to be anointed while the sponsor stands behind him with a hand on his shoulder. The sponsor has a very important job: holding up an index card with the candidate's Confirmation name on it. At the moment of anointing, the priest says the candidate's new name, and he needs the card to remember which name to say. The ceremony coordinator gave me the card and told to make sure to bring it up with me. "Don't forget!" she said.

Frank's Confirmation saint card: Blessed John Henry Newman
I tucked the card in my purse and made a series of mental notes not to forget it.

After that we went back to my apartment to meet up with my family. We dyed Easter eggs on the kitchen table and everyone got dressed for Easter Vigil Mass. I donned my favorite Shabby Apple dress for the occasion.

Frank and I before Mass
The Vigil Mass was beautiful. We held candles, sang songs and listened to Bible readings that told the whole history of salvation from Genesis down to Christ's death. I couldn't wait to stand with Frank for his Confirmation. I kept thinking over and over, "This is the highest honor I've ever received," quickly followed by, "I think this is the happiest day of my life." I took an occasional break from those recurring thoughts to think, "I love Frank!" and to thank God profusely.

Frank and I sat in the third row with the other candidates and sponsors. My family sat in the fourth row, right behind us. My siblings were only mildly obstreperous. I did notice Angela using her yellow votive candle as a crayon to color on her program. 

Finally it was time for the rites of initiation for the nine candidates entering the Catholic Church. It was so beautiful. One of my favorite parts for people entering from various Protestant faiths was a ceremony called "the Submission to Rome." Doesn't that sound ominous? It was actually very simple and nice. The candidates read a little statement saying the following: "I believe and profess all the the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God." I thought that was lovely.

When the candidates went up for the Submission to Rome, their sponsors went with them. But that's when they threw me for a loop. Immediately after the Submission ceremony, it was time for the Confirmation ceremony. You see, I thought we would go back to our pew between the two ceremonies. As the other sponsors pulled out their index cards, I froze in horror. I had left the index card in my purse.

"Do you have the card?" Frank whispered. I could tell he was nervous and I hated to add to his stress. "I left it in the pew!" I admitted in panic. I was freaking out and didn't know what to do.

Lucky for me, my family was only a few rows away. I glanced over at my sister Maria with a look of panic. She opened my purse and pulled out the card. Like an assembly line, my family passed the card all the way down to the end of the row, where I was able to grab it easily. Success! I whispered to Frank, "I have the card!" The rest of the Confirmation ceremony went off without a hitch. As Frank said later on, "Big families for the win!"

Here are Frank and I standing at the altar for his Confirmation.

My dear friends Ruth and Mary Catherine sat across the aisle from Frank and me. Mary Catherine snapped these photos and sent them to me after Mass. All through the ceremony, she and Ruth occasionally caught my eye and grinned at me. I grinned back with all that in me lay. In fact, all night I smiled as though my life depended on it.

Here's a closer look at the moment of Confirmation. I'm holding the prodigal index card in my left hand. Can you see it if you look closely?

I think this next photo, of Frank and me walking back to the pew after he was confirmed, is my favorite. His face is so serious as he assumes the responsibility of being an adult in the Church, a full-fledged soldier for Christ. Yet I think you can tell that he's joyful to be assuming this noble responsibility. With the candle, he looks like the living embodiment of Christ's charge to be "the light of the world."

After Mass, we went over to the parish hall for a party in honor of the new members of the Church. There was cake, champagne, chocolate and lots of people. We had a lot of fun mingling with our friends. It was the most wonderful night. Here are Frank and I with Ruth at the party.

On Easter Sunday itself, we went to Mass again and then ate a delicious brunch at a nice restaurant near the church. In the afternoon we had fun seeing the sights and exploring some DC monuments. But that is a story for another time.

Happy Easter, my friends! Thank you to those who were praying for Frank this weekend. It was truly wonderful. And as we can finally say now that Lent is over, Alleluia! He is Risen!