I don’t remember what the exact date was. The church bulletin that day somehow found its way to the recycle bin, as have the many others before and since. I remember that it was sometime during Lent 2014, and with this general info I let google do it’s magic, and can now share with you that it was March 23, 2014, the third Sunday of Lent.
The responsorial psalm was “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” My heart was already wide open. I was already a puddle of mush.
Just a few days earlier on Thursday, March 20, I had participated in “The Light is on for you,” a night where parishes across the Archdiocese open their doors for confession, specifically geared towards those who hadn’t been in a very long time or had fallen away from the church. Both applied to me. For about 5 years, I had only set foot in a Catholic church possibly for Christmas and Easter, if even then. I had projected my treatment by a few misguided Catholics during and following my divorce, as a judgment by the religion as a whole. My defensive response was to say “fine, who needs this,” and leave the church completely.
On Ash Wednesday, a few days prior, something had called me to take my daughter to get our ashes. Then, a few days later, I said yes to a mass invitation from a friend, and found myself attending the first Sunday of Lent mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Downtown Denver. The Cathedral is exceptionally beautiful and awe inspiring, but it was a Deacon at the front of the Cathedral walking around lighting candles and such, that caught my eye. “I went to high school with that guy,” I whispered to my friend and my daughter. Neither were super impressed, I think I might have gotten a “cool” response, or something like that. At the time, I had no idea what his role was up at the front of the Cathedral, but I for sure recognized the Deacon immediately as Jason Wunsch from my class at Boulder High School.
When it was time for the Homily, I was completely surprised when Jason went walking on up there. For the life of me, I can’t remember what his homily was about, but it was AMAZING to me, and struck my heart. After mass, I found Jason’s email, and discovered that he remembered me from high school as well! We went to get coffee, and I found out that he was in his last year in Seminary, and was studying to be a priest! We had so much in common, a biggie being that we had both entered the church through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). As a Deacon that year, once a month he gave the Homily at one of the 4 Sunday masses. The chance that I came to the exact mass where he was giving the homily …none of that was a coincidence, Deacon Jason said with conviction.
With Deacon Jasons guidance and support, I went to confession (and took my girls to confession), for my first time in 5 years, and for their first times since their respective first communions. It was incredible, and amazing, and such a gift, to have GRACE.
Back to the 3rd Sunday of Lent…during the gospel reading when they told the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, I felt my face grow hot.
Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
Tears sprang to my eyes, and I could feel myself shaking. Sure, I haven’t had FIVE husbands….but I have had two. And was no longer married to either…
Tears poured down my face throughout the reading, and didn’t stop during the preparation of the gifts. I dabbed at my face with the corner of my white sweater, which to this day has black mascara stains on the left sleeve edge.
When it was time to approach the altar for the Eucharist, which I could now participate regularly in for the first time in years, I was trembling. As I consumed the body and blood, the tears started pouring anew. I could feel a pulsing throughout my entire body. Is this what the Holy Spirit is, I wondered? I hope so, I thought! It was a combination of regret, but buffered and wrapped up with hope, love, and a joy that I could feel almost tangibly.
In those moments, a mantra kept running through my mind. “I AM the woman at the well.” It came back to me this month, well over a year later, when I was rereading the gospel of John. I am STILL the woman at the well. Will I ever not be? Do annulments change that status? Does it change in my heart? Do I recognize the work that Christ is doing in my life, and am I properly thankful?
I am grateful to Father Jason, whose ordination as a priest I was privileged to attend in May 2014, to my partner in our family faith building efforts Kylie, and to my network of friends and family, both Catholic and non-Catholic, who have supported me throughout this journey towards faith rejuvenation and growth, throughout the past year and a half. I appreciate you, I love you, and I pray that I can be as good of a support to you all someday, as you have been to me.
I am the woman at the well.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”