I Baptize with Water

An update for readers who are not close friends: This past year I began study to become a Catholic Deacon. One of the things that many of the Deacons I have spoken with have noted is how much they enjoy celebrating Baptisms.

It’s not something I really thought about until the baptism of my Godchild, Noah, some time ago. His grandfather is a Deacon and he baptized him and I imagine that this was a special moment for him.

It made me think about John the Baptist today, who I’m sure knew many of the people who came to him for baptism quite well. He must have been quite touched to be bringing so many of his friends to renew their relationship with God and likely it was an affirmation of his preaching and his good work in the vineyard.

But this line from the Gospel stayed with me today:

“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

I too, will one day baptize people with water–but God does the rest. John’s words here initially strike one as humbleness, but in truth, John just saw things as they are. “I Baptize with water.” God is the one who gives us new life in this Baptism. Our outward sign is nothing if not a sign of God’s presence and saving grace for us.

That’s for US…not merely the newly baptized who indeed becomes a sign for all of us through the experience of our seeing them Baptized. This is why many parishes are moving away from private baptisms and insisting that the sacrament happens at one of the Sunday masses, or minimally, more than one couple comes together for Baptisms monthly and sit together until all the children are baptized.

So in four years or so, I will be looking forward to witness these Baptisms. And in it I will be mindful that I will simply be an agent of God’s grace, leading those present and the newly baptized “to be a witness to a glimpse of God that we are allowed to catch.” (Henri Nouwen)

After Baptism…Nothing Was Ever the Same

This week I was gifted to be one of the many presenters at the Diocese of Buffalo’s Millennial Milestones Conference. The Diocese’s foundation is offering grants on young adult ministry initiatives and so the diocesan staff put together a two day conference providing workshops on who young adults are today (My presentation), leadership, parish initiatives and sacramentality.

Dr Jerry Galipeau, D.Min. who you can meet over at the Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray Blog provided me with the most emotional experience of baptism in some time.

He began speaking about visiting the church where he was baptized and it struck him that “my little head was in that font and from that moment on, nothing was ever the same.” He noted that his parents thought so much of him that they baptized him into the Catholic community of faith and everything from then on, changed. Because he was Catholic he had studied for the priesthood and instead of choosing ordination he chose the path of parish ministry as a lay person. A gifted musician and liturgist, he has been gift for the church for over 50 years now. It all sprang from that initial moment of water running over a little baby’s head.

Dr Galipeau had us all go to the chapel and remember those who were present at our own baptism. Parents, grandparents perhaps, Godparents. A priest. Perhaps some of us, unlike myself, were baptized as adults? What a profoundly different experience that may have been. I know my favorite moment every year is the Easter Vigil, when many adults are newly baptized. It’s an amazing experience to watch and to walk with these people as they study in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). I remember my good friend Sr. Jeanne Hamilton led RCIA classes one year at Fordham and when the Vigil was over she reported, “I feel like I just gave birth…12 times!”

I approached the font thinking of my parents and my Godparents. My parents are such strong reminders of what it means to stay faithful to God as they have lived married life for nearly 60 years together. My Godmother I can barely remember but I do remember her being very dedicated to me and to my education. She was always encouraging me to read and to learn and to most importantly, stay out of trouble. My Godfather was another story. A World War II veteran, my mother’s brother, Patrick, who every one called Bubby, returned from war changed. The big worry of my baptism day was whether or not he’d show up sober. My mother, always the encouraging one, said that she wasn’t worried and that he was going to be the godfather and that’s that. She believed in him and I think that was all that mattered to him. With his sister’s trust, he came and held me over the font and everything worked out just fine. He became someone I looked forward to visiting and who cared for my mother and my family more than most. I even read the second reading at his funeral which I think was one of the first times I was really representing my entire family at a formal event.

Nothing was ever the same.

As I took water from the font, I did so with much gratitude for that changing day. That day when I became part of the church and where indeed, nothing would ever be the same again. I scooped up a large quantity of that water, more than ever mindful, that my life has been blessed with great people, great churches, great pastors and great colleagues in ministry.

And because of my little head being dipped in the font of new life, I have been baptized into new life and need to recall that changing moment again and again.

Bless Our Pastoral Planners

I ask for you to join the pastoral staff at St. Joseph University Church in prayer today as we begin our pastoral planning time. It’s our time to discern how we serve the needs of our parish community and the students of the University of Buffalo’s South Campus.

And so we ask you to pray with us:

Water is indeed a symbol that is full of richness for us. It is something that we cannot live without. It can refresh us on a hot summer day. It helps us cook food, wash ourselves and there’s nothing quite like boating or swimming on the water.

But water can also bring up scary images as well. Like drowning or floods, or being in over our heads. The disciples knew of water’s power when they were tossed on the waves before Jesus calmed them and when Peter began to sink because of his lack of faith. The waters of Katrina and of the Indian Tsunami reminded us all too well of water’s destructive power.

For me, however, water has always been a particular symbol that reminds me of God working in my life.

Because when I am moved by the spirit, I cry.

Tears flow easily when I pray. I can’t explain it and I no longer am embarrassed by them. The tears are signs of the spirit and that God and I are intimately connecting, most of the time through others but sometimes in quiet and stillness too. This is something that Ignatius was in touch with as well. He called it the gift of tears and in fact, he said we should pray to be so moved in prayer–to receive such a gift.

Often I would say that if this is God’s idea of a gift.. I’d like to give it back. But now I know better…because these tears are indeed a sign that the spirit is indeed alive and they remind me of God’s intimate connection with each one of us.
All truly great prayer – rises from deep inside and springs spontaneously to the surface. It would then seem – that from among the many beautiful prayers,
the scared songs and canticles of praise, my tears my be the best worship of all. And you should know that from the moment I stepped into this church, my tears have not ceased. The spirit is indeed alive here and is moving us to discern that spirit today.

It is water the first sign of our sacramental life in the church. God chooses to initiate us into the church through the saving waters of baptism…and perhaps that when we are so moved (some of us more often than others) it is God’s way of reminding us of our need to minister to one another–that like our Godparents we are all indeed responsible for one another.

So as we begin our time together, we remind oursleves that we are Christians, we remind oursleves that God loves us and that even when we are overwhelmed and feel like we are drowning or when things have gotten dry–God indeed can calm those waves and bring us to a new and refreshing ways of life.

So let us begin our time together by calling God’s blessing down upon this water, and then let us bless one another with a sign of our faith.

I Debaptize you in the name of the…er…

A huge hat tip to American Papist today for this one.

Oh brother, can we all just give it a rest? Why do atheists always have to thrust their thoughts down everyone’s throats but when religious people even do this in a small way (like say putting a cross up in a field on Good Friday) they act like religion is proposing killing puppies?