Year-of-Faith Baptistery Visit

Today in Rome, our Holy Father inaugurates the Year of Faith at St. Peter’s Basilica—fifty years to the day after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and twenty years to the day after the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

One of the pious activities which the Pope recommends for us: to visit the place of our baptism and renew our baptismal promises there.

The 42nd anniversary of my own baptism is one week from today. Three years ago, I stopped in the church and made a visit.

I thanked the Lord for baptizing me in such a nice, historic Presbyterian church. I also thanked Him that I got to become Catholic, 22 years later.

We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, risen from the dead, ascended into heaven. We believe that He guides all things in favor of our salvation and our triumph in glory in heaven. We walk by faith in the One into Whose death we have been baptized. The whole purpose of life is that our baptism might come to full flower.

Perhaps it seems incongruous to baptize a nursing baby into the crucifixion of a Palestinian carpenter from 2,000 years ago. Incongruous to take the pride and joy of the preening parents in hand, and ritually unite the child with the obscure death of an apparently obscure man.

But it makes perfect sense, because:

1. Everyone dies. Even the cutest baby. Someday: a corpse.

2. The obscure man into Whose death we are baptized is Almighty God.

3. He rose from the dead. We are baptized into His resurrection and His eternal glory, too.

Where your unworthy servant was baptized

When we were baptized, someone made the promise of faith. Speaking for myself, I was too young to make such a promise at the time. My interests then focused almost exclusively on sleeping and breast milk.

But someone made the promise for me: I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Incarnation, the Redemption, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Church, the sacraments. I believe in heaven.

It certainly will do us all a lot of good, insofar as we are able, to visit the place where the promise of faith was first made for me, and to make it again, as if for the first time.

Seventeen Proud Years

The Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall on their right and their left.

Where your unworthy servant was baptized

We Christians are marching to the holy mountain, where it is always springtime.

To outfit us to march forward, the Lord initiates us through the sacraments. We must be washed, anointed, and fed.

Easter is a good time for us to recall and thank God for the sacraments that have made us Christians.

On October 18, 1970, I was baptized by a well-meaning non-Catholic, non-priest at New York Avenue Presbyterian church. My parents were kind enough to carry me to the font, and they saw to it that I was in church every Sunday for the next 17 ½ years. I am grateful.

But there was still some unfinished business. On Holy Saturday night, 1993, I was confirmed and given Holy Communion for the first time by Father Ed Ingebretsen in Dahlgren Chapel at Georgetown University.

Seventeen years ago this morning, I woke up washed, anointed, and fed for the first time in my life.

It is good to be Catholic.

No one—not the Washington Post or the New York Times, not CBS News or CNN, not Geraldo Rivera or Sinead O’Connor—no one is going to tell me that it is not good to be Catholic on Easter Sunday.

We Catholics hate it when people do evil. We hate it that priests have done great evil and hurt innocent young people. We hate it that some bishops have failed to discipline their clergy like they should have.

But we know this, too: The world needs the mercy of God that comes to us through His Church.

As Norman MacLean put it in “A River Runs through It,”

When you pick up a fly rod, you will soon find it factually and theologically true that man by nature is a damn mess.

We need God. We need Christ. We need the Church. We need the sacraments. We need to be washed, anointed, and fed, so that we can march toward the goal.

Where your unworthy servant was Confirmed a Catholic

…How badly do I want Butler to beat Duke?

I wanted the Giants to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. But not this much. I wanted N.C. State to beat Houston in 1983. But not this much. I wanted Delpo to beat Federer, but not this much.