Being reborn after our own 'Good Fridays' Print
On His Time
Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

As we get closer to Holy Week and the Easter Triduum, we enter a time to reflect on Christ’s Paschal Mystery and how we can apply it to our own lives. While on a much smaller scale, sometimes certain events in our life become a microcosm of the Passion.

My own ‘Paschal Mystery’

Two years ago, I had the privilege of attending the parish mission at St. Maria Goretti in Madison, of which I have been a member of for almost three years.

The speaker on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights of Holy Week was Dr. Terry Nelson-Johnson. Dr. Nelson-Johnson is a “street theologian” who shares storytelling, poetry, and humor with various groups of all ages to help them “to enter more deeply into the mystery of grace, the mystery of spirit, the mystery of God,” according to his website

The topic of the parish mission was “Running the Paschal Mystery: Cheerleader or Participant?” The wide range of material and thoughts I had during that mission would take up several pages of this paper, but I wanted to focus on one aspect of it, and how I would soon discover I was given a tremendous gift, in what at first looked like quite the opposite.

Dr. Nelson-Johnson explained how the Paschal Mystery could be used to explain a series of moments in our lives. The “Good Friday” part of the mission struck me the most

He explained (and I’m paraphrasing at best) that “Good Fridays” in our lives are those moments when we have to “die” a little, in order to be “raised up.” They can be a literal death of someone close or some other challenging moment in our lives. Sometimes we have to die to live, but if we stay on the path of the Paschal Mystery, we will be “born again.”

My cross to bear

I heard this all as I approached Good Friday 2012. Let’s go back a year to 2011.

The day after Good Friday, Easter Vigil, I sat in church before Mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church (I hadn’t joined, nor even knew about St. Maria Goretti Parish at that time, but more on that later).

I was sitting in the pews begging the Holy Spirit to get me through the agony I was feeling over the events of the previous day, Good Friday.

What happened on that Good Friday, you ask? A thing that happens to so many of us that hundreds of books, poems, songs, movies, etc., have been written about -- my girlfriend broke up with me.

I will spare you the details of everything that led up to it, and the details of how it went down, but needless to say, it happened. While I was handling it well for the first couple of hours, reality hit me hard over the rest of the weekend.

At that time in my life, I looked at it as the second most devastating and potentially life-changing thing that had happened to me. The other being losing my first job out of college after six months, which put a screeching halt to my slowly-budding TV reporting career at the time.

As I’ve learned in life, sometimes you don’t know how life-changing an event can be until you realize your life has been changed.

Finding my ‘Easter’

So where did I go from there, and why do you care?

One of the reasons my girlfriend at the time and I got together was we were both Catholic and wanted someone with whom to share our faith. I don’t think it was any coincidence that this had been my first serious relationship, which started just as I turned 26 years old.

After the breakup, I had lost more than a relationship, I’d lost a “community,” someone to go to Mass with, to practice the faith with together, to discuss Church issues with.

I decided it was time to “get involved” with the Church, but I didn’t know where to go, or where to start.

I emailed someone from the diocese basically saying I’m “too young” for most Church activities (my perception at the time being only “older” people can be really involved with the Church) and I’m too old for the college-age and younger activities. I didn’t know if there was any in-between. Lucky for me, there was, and still is.

This diocesan employee (who I’ll be nice and not embarrass by naming him) gave me the information on three young adult groups in the area. One of them was at St. Maria Goretti Parish (SMG) in Madison. I had never heard of the parish before, so I had to look up where it was. It was near Channel 15, where I was working as a producer on the overnight shift. It all worked out well. I could attend the young adult event coming up the next Thursday and then drive over to work after it.

I’m not the most graceful person in social situations. I’m shy, awkward, and clumsy at meeting people (this job has helped with that a lot though!). It took a lot of energy to push myself into the parish hall that Thursday evening. While I didn’t come away making any friends immediately, for the first time since, dare I say, grade school, I felt part of a Church community. I was finally with people I could share and grow my faith with, and did it ever grow.

Eventually I met people and gained some new friends. Over the next few months, my being in the young adult group opened the doors to helping out with St. Maria Goretti’s high school youth ministry program, being part of some small group studies, volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, being part of the Monday Night Sports League, SMG’s Trivia Night, gaining a thirst to know more about the faith through reading the Bible and other works, joining the Knights of Divine Mercy, now actually being one of the coordinators of the SMG young adult group, as well as following the path that led me to this job at the Catholic Herald.

A final reflection

Had my first serious relationship not ended on that Good Friday three years ago, would all of this have happened? Probably not.

That “Good Friday” actually on Good Friday, while still painful thinking back on it, turned into an Easter Sunday with sunlight still shining today.

I’ve had many Good Fridays since then, and will continue to have them. The challenge is for me, and all of us, to be open to the resurrections and rebirths that await us.

Kevin Wondrash is the reporter for the Catholic Herald in Madison. He is active in the young adult community in the Diocese of Madison. He is also involved with high school youth ministry and other activities at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison. You can follow him on Twitter @CHReporterKevin