Paula Huston, an award-winning author, converted to Catholicism in her middle aged years, and sees and hears Sunday Mass in a way cradle Catholics might not.
In her 2016 book “One Ordinary Sunday: A Meditation on the Mystery of the Mass,” the Arroyo Grande, California, writer looks at the Eucharistic liturgy with the deep curiosity an adult convert to the faith brings.
“In terms of my own conversion, the Mass was enormously important,” Huston says in an interview “Even though I grew up in a liturgical church — Lutheran-- and much that I saw in my first Mass seemed quite familiar, I was struck right away by the fact that there was something different going on during Catholic worship. I was impressed by the priest’s reverent attitude as he handled the elements of bread and wine.”
The congregation’s attitude toward the consecrated bread and wine is what finally hooked her on the Mass, she says.
“I was surprised by how seriously the congregation approached the moment of Communion,” she says. “But neither of these could fully explain why the Eucharist affected me so powerfully. Though it took a while to figure it out, I finally realized what it was: the Real Presence of Christ. I have spoken to other adult converts who say the same thing. The first time they watched the Eucharist unfold, they knew that this is where they belonged, that they had finally ‘come home,’ and that’s the way I felt too.”
Huston writes that each Sunday Mass she attends with her husband, and fellow convert, Mike, is “a bridge through time, spanning the Catholic Church’s two millennia. She adds that each Mass is also “a little taste of heaven” that heals, restores and spiritually feeds its participants. For example, in a chapter on “Preparing,” she highlights the effect the Mass has on her husband.
“No matter what else has gone on during the past week — and it could be anything from broken water pipes to inexplicably bad sleep to brooding on his own past sins — my husband always looks different to me on Sunday mornings,” she writes. “In church, he has the face of a man who has just awakened all over again to a new reality, one that features stained glass and glimmering candlelight and the angelic voices of (the cantor) Kathy and Father Ken.”
Huston intersperses her scholarly insights about the liturgy’s Jewish and ancient Christian roots with down-to-earth anecdotes about her friends, family members and fellow parishioners, making the book a light, even humorous, read at times as well as a deep historical and spiritual reflection on the liturgy.
“One Ordinary Sunday” has already earned major plaudits, including winning First Place in the 2017 Association of Catholic Publishers’ Excellence in Publishing Award for General Interest Books, as well the Catholic Press Association Book Award for Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith.
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