‘Everything stopped, and I was in the Light’

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Shortly before Christ fulfilled His Salvific mission on earth, He preached, “I am the Light of the world. No follower of Mine shall ever walk in darkness; no he shall possess the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

Ironically, one of Christ’s most ardent evangelists following His death and Resurrection, St. Paul, was converted after encountering “a flash of light from Heaven.” The entire Lenten season leading up to the joy of the Easter season is the journey to the Light.

Through his encounter with the Light, St. Paul emerged from the darkness of persecuting Christ’s followers to bringing others into His fold.

Paul came to see the Light, not with his mind but with a transformation of heart and soul.

Each year, through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, many people take the journey toward the Light by learning about the Catholic faith and making the bold commitment to become full members of the Church. For many, that journey leads them to Baptism and/or receiving the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil Mass: a conversion of the heart and soul.

It’s not a culmination of the journey, it’s the beginning of the next phase of their Spiritual lives.

“It is such a joy to welcome these faithful people into the Church and the Diocese of Fall River,” Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., told The Anchor. “We are so happy and proud of them and happy to be part of their faith lives, and we want them to know that we’ll continue to walk their journey with them, through the joys and sorrows.”

Deacon Bruce Bonneau, assistant director of Adult Evangelization and Spirituality, was especially pleased with the number of people who have chosen to become members of the Church this year. “Several weeks back, at the Rite of Election at St. Mary’s Cathedral, the church was virtually filled with candidates, catechumens, sponsors, parishioners and priests,” he said. The rite provides people with the opportunity to express publicly their intentions to become members of the Church. “The numbers have nearly doubled over the last few years, and more and more parishes are becoming active and involved in the RCIA process; which is good because more and more people are expressing an interest in joining the Church.”

Deacon Bonneau told The Anchor that the Easter Vigil service is not only uplifting and joyful for those entering the Church, but for the local Church family as well. “It takes much humility to stand up and express one’s commitment to Christ,” he said. “It leaves a mark on the parishes.”

While the process teaches the fundamentals of the Catholic Church, Deacon Bonneau stressed the RICA process is more about a “transformation of hearts. It’s an invitation from God, through others, to embrace the joy of a life-changing experience, one of purification and enlightenment.”

He added, “Like all Catholics during Lent and Easter, these individuals are buried with Christ and rise to new life with Him.”

Deacon Bonneau was blessed to have caught a rare glimpse of the inner life-changing effects of a new member of the Church.

Several years back he was participating in the Easter Vigil rite welcoming new members of Christ’s Church. “The church was in darkness as we processed with the Easter candle,” he said. “The congregation received their flame from it. The church, once in darkness, was now transformed into the light of Christ by one single flame.

“Three to be baptized stood radiant in that light. One of those was a woman in her late 20s; a wife and a worker, who had been preparing for that moment for more than a year.

“Just before the ceremony, she whispered to me, ‘I’m not sure this is the beginning of my life, but I know now it is truly a part of my life.’ I wondered to myself if I had ever or could ever express my faith with such conviction.”

Over the next few years Deacon Bonneau baptized two of her children. He later received a call from the woman’s mother indicating her daughter was gravely ill with cancer in the hospital.

Deacon Bonneau visited with her, praying with her and her family; sharing Scripture; petitions of hope, consolation and fear; and the Eucharist.

When everyone had left, Deacon Bonneau spent several hours sharing her fears, the future for her family, and what death would be like.

“We talked for hours and then it just ended; we were all talked out. It was a gentle pause, a Sacred silence, a peaceful moment when there is nothing left to say and words are inadequate.

“Then she looked at me and said, ‘This is what it was like that night.’ I questioned what she meant. She said, ‘That Easter night when I stood before the candle, and the smoke and the incense was all around me. Everything stopped, and I was in the Light.’

“I thought to myself, ‘This is someone who gets it.’”

The woman died the following week. “She had one request for me,” the deacon added. “She wanted the small baptismal candle she received years earlier at the Easter Vigil to burn next to the Easter candle at her funeral.”

Deacon Bonneau told The Anchor that the peaceful pauses and silence in the hospital room and the one at the Easter Vigil were one and same, and she made the connection; one that few seldom do.

The RCIA candidates who will be received into full membership with Christ’s Church this Easter Vigil, and all Catholics, will share in the joy and Light of the Resurrection. Perhaps some more than others.

“The space that allows for a wider way of life; a stillness that breathes new life into old patterns; it is the mystery that God is creating so much more, something new, something good. All we need to do, no matter how long we have been in the Church, is stay still and experience it,” said Deacon Bonneau.

“This Easter our new members of the Church and all of us will share the joy and enthusiasm that fills hearts and lives through receiving the Sacraments; fulfilling the need to be nourished,” said Bishop da Cunha. “The Light of joy and faith will not be diminished, but will burn brightly in everyone, during and past the Easter season.”

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts