When Wei Lin, 18, walks into a room, he is greeted with a chorus of hello’s. He knows everyone, and everyone knows him. His wide smile is contagious. It is unclear whether he has ever had a bad day. When asked, Lin would say he is very blessed.
“The thing that made this weekend so beautiful was standing in front of the altar and seeing the many faces of all the great friends who were in the audience,” Lin said.
On Saturday, March 30, 2013, Lin was baptized, received the Holy Communion, and was confirmed into the Catholic Church with five others at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Church at the University of Notre Dame.
He could not stop smiling. It was the first thing every churchgoer said as they offered their congratulations to Lin at the end of the service. He stood beaming in the center, the star of the show. Though he stands out in the crowd, his passion for his faith is no turn-off, even for a confirmed but questioning believer such as myself.
I watched Lin as he embarked on the last leg of his spiritual journey before becoming fully Catholic. At the Vigil, Lin professed his faith and the crowd, including myself, dutifully responded “I do” to the renewal of our own baptisms.
Lin, the product of two non-Christians from Queens, New York, knew the Catholic Church was his home the moment he set foot in it. It calls to him. He spent countless hours each week serving the Church in the liturgical choir while simultaneously undergoing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults classes. Since the spring semester he has attended Mass twice every Sunday: the 10 a.m. for liturgical choir and the 11:45 a.m. for RCIA. Not to mention the 8:30 a.m. rehearsal and the classes in between.
“I went to a competitive high school and it was hard to find time to pursue a faith life,” Lin said. “I messed up a lot in high school. I felt Notre Dame would be a good escape from that environment.”
At the reception in the Coleman-Morse Center after his baptism, Lin hardly ate. He was busy hugging and thanking everyone at the RCIA reception for their support, and then repeated the gesture upstairs at the reception for the liturgical choir.
“I’m starving,” he said, looking at me as we headed back down to the RCIA reception once more. I looked at the clock. 1:12 a.m.
“You’re like someone who just got married!” I told him. “You haven’t stopped greeting people all night and you know everyone here.”
He smiled. “In a way, I did just get married,” he said. “I’ve finally married my faith and become closer in my relationship with God.”
It is enough to make every Catholic – heck, every Christian – who was baptized as a baby reconsider faith. If given the obstacles and the choice today, would you do what Lin did to become Catholic?
Click the first image to begin slideshow with captions. All photos by Clara Ritger.
Wei Lin, 18, sits with his godfather Scott Boyle, 22, before the Holy Thursday Mass. Lin will be baptized in two days at the Easter Vigil with the other Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) candidates.
Boyle sits alone for Good Friday. Lin is also a member of the University of Notre Dame Liturgical Choir and was in the loft for Mass.
Lin is leaving the Good Friday Mass with the Elect, or the RCIA candidates. Though it means he leaves the choir early, he cannot stay for the Holy Communion until he is baptized, confirmed and received into the Church.
Lin approaches the Grotto to pray. “I gave thanks to God for preparing me for such a big moment of my life,” Lin said. “I let God know that I was fully ready to join Him and share in His grace. I was ready to commit my life to better serve Him.”
Each member of the Elect chooses a saint who represents the spirit they wish to be after confirmed. “I told St. Ambrose that he was going to be my Confirmation Saint, and I asked him to pray for me as I completed what was the end of the beginning,” Lin said.
When Lin first encountered the Catholic Church, he knew he was home. “I felt it go through me,” Lin said. “This is what I was looking for.”
On Saturday, Boyle and Lin attended a closing retreat for the Elect and their sponsors. “For Lent, he wrote to me every single day,” Lin said, of Boyle. “It was usually a prayer of some sort, but sometimes it was passages from the Bible that had caught his eye while other times it was a short greeting.”
Lin couldn’t always pursue both his passions. He was accepted into the Liturgical Choir in the fall and found out that the RCIA classes were held at the same time as rehearsal on Sunday mornings. “God was calling me to do both and I was very conflicted,” Lin said. “I felt a strong need for a faith life and it all worked out.” RCIA Director John Dillon had found a solution: Lin would go to confirmation classes held during the week to make up lessons he missed on Sundays while with the choir.
Lin’s parents are from New York and practice “something between Buddhism and Daoism,” Lin said. “They were supportive when I told them I was doing this.”
As a part of the final retreat, Lin pens a reflection. He was the last to get up from the table; thoughtful, like Ambrose.
Lin and the Elect await their baptism. “I was in disbelief that the moment had finally come,” Lin said. “I told myself that God is ready to accept me and that I was ready to accept God fully into my life.”
Fr. Peter Rocca, CSC, the rector of the Basilica, blesses Lin as he prepares to baptize him.
“After being baptized, I felt pure and I felt cleansed,” Lin said. “I felt that I had been transformed and that I needed to think about what I do from then on. I have to be conscious of my actions from then on and be respectful and appreciate everything God does for me.”
Lin stands with Boyle in front of the church as he is officially welcomed by the congregation. Lin holds his baptismal candle.
Lin hugs a member of the liturgical choir after the service. They lined up one by one to wish him well. He was all smiles.
The choir surprised Lin with an engraved Bible at a reception following the service. “I feel so loved… like all the love in the world has been shared with me,” Lin said.
Lin said he was “speechless” before the baptism, but his words flowed like water at the reception. “I am so thankful to have made this journey with this family,” Lin said to the choir.
Lin shows off his card. “This is a perfect night,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
The following morning, Lin is up early with the liturgical choir, sharing an Easter breakfast before they sing for the 10 a.m. Mass. It’s back to business as usual.
Lin’s smile is bright and the room warms up as soon as he arrives. You would never know he had left the reception in the same building only seven hours earlier.
The eggs, decorated by members of the choir, seemed fitting as a symbol of birth and a recognition of Lin’s new beginning with the church.
Lin heads to the loft with the other members of the choir. He will stay for the full Mass. He said the next step for him in his spiritual process is to find ways to be as involved in the church services as he has been over the last seven months. He said he wants to help prepare the next RCIA candidates, and is looking into reading or helping with the Eucharist for the 11:45 a.m. Mass.