Today I'm visiting our friary in Yonkers, New York, where I was assigned as parish priest for three years. I'm on the provincial "liturgy commission," and today we are planning liturgies for our upcoming provincial chapter. The coffee here is terrible, and it reminds me of some wisdom I received as a catechumen.
The parish where I became a Catholic didn't seem to have heard of the restored catechumenate or the RCIA. Instead, they put me in the care of the permanent deacon, a very kind man, who was to give me 'convert instructions.' After going through these instructions on Thursday evenings through the summer of 1993, I asked if I could be baptized before the fall semester began.
The deacon agreed that it was a good time, but explained to me that I would have to be examined by the pastor first. Of course I had no idea what this meant, and I studied everything I could think of the night before. I was to be examined after the morning Mass. I had never been in a rectory before. The deacon and his wife waited outside.
The old pastor invited me to sit at the dining room table. He gave me buttered toast and a cup of coffee. David McCullough's Truman sat on the table, along with the local newspaper, the New London Day. The examination consisted of me being asked if I really wanted to be baptized. That's all. And I was all ready to name the sacraments, the commandments, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the mysteries of the rosary, etc. When I responded that yes indeed I wanted to be baptized, he gave his congratulations, presented me a baptismal certificate (a day early) and showed me out. I was relieved and very surprised that there had been nothing to it.
The deacon and his wife asked me how it had gone. I told them everything.
"How was the coffee?" asked the deacon.
"It was awful," I replied.
"That's a good lesson about the Catholic Church," he went on, "the coffee is usually pretty bad."