All posts tagged: baptism

Christ’s Story Runs Deeper: The Sanctified Imagination

In his collection of “diagnostic essays,” The Message in the Bottle, Walker Percy reflects on the particular idiosyncrasies of the modern milieu, offering a prognosis for the malaise that manifests itself in pervasive cultural symptoms of dis-ease and dissatisfaction. In one essay, “The Loss of the Creature,” Percy perceptively identifies the modern human as having been reduced to “a consumer of a prepared experience.”[1] Essentially, in a society of mass-produced goods and televised reality, consumers have begun to hunger for authenticity. The human being wants “to certify their experience as genuine.”[2] The modern creature hungers to know herself as a “sovereign wayfarer”[3] forging her own path of exploration and discovery, rather than a shopper selecting predetermined experiences. Percy’s sense of the crisis of the modern person to find a genuine experience resonates particularly in terms of the social narratives in which human beings live. Cultural narratives control our imaginations and our actions, and these narratives can so tangibly shape the life we lead and the person we become. Our lives are determined by many narratives …

My Beloved Son: The Baptism of Walter Congrove

My son Walt was baptized almost a year and a half ago. His older brother Harry was chrismated with him, and then they made their first Communion together. It was a very busy day. We had friends, family, and two sets of godparents coming in and we had to have food and cake enough for them and the whole parish. The preparations were steady and occasionally frantic, with some unplanned emergencies along the way. When it was all over, it dawned on me that I hadn’t taken a single picture. I didn’t have a picture of the boys inside the church, in front of the font, with their godparents, with us, or with the priest. I had run from one place to another the whole time and I failed even to think of handing over our camera to anybody else who might have been able to take some pictures. I have regretted these lost and missing photographs ever since, but the experience etched some unforgettable images in my memory. Because Walt was to be immersed, …

A Letter to the Newly-Baptized

To the Newly-Baptized: You may already feel it—the fact that this journey you are on made a significant transition when you were baptized. Though you remain on the same path towards Christ, your landscape and means for getting there have radically changed. In this post I will discuss three ways in which your Baptism marked a significant moment in your journey, changing you irreversibly, and then speak to the continuing nature of your journey. First, in Baptism you were adopted into a new family, one of choice. Though you were born into a birth family many years ago, Robin Jensen in Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity notes that “unlike a birth family, this was a family one chose” (57). Tertullian exhorts the one being baptized saying: When you come up from that most sacred washing of the new birth and for the first time you raise your hands with your brethren in your mother’s house, ask of your Father, ask of your Lord, for special grants of grace and attributions of spiritual gifts. (58) You now have …

Actualizing Baptism: The Font of Lay Authority

It seems the common experience of most lay people today in the United States Catholic Church that they are disengaged from the liturgical celebration unless made a part of an active ministry (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Lector, Greeter, etc.). Yet, the documents of the Second Vatican Council point to the essential activity of the laity, whether part of an active ministry or not. The laity seem to have lost a rightful sense of authority when celebrating the liturgy. They see themselves as passive participants instead of active members of a Church communio. The decline in Mass attendance or engagement may be connected to this shallow self-understanding of lay identity that has seeped its way into the consciousness of so many Catholics. The rich rights and obligations of the laity articulated in the Code of Canon Law (CC 208ff.) spurred this essay, which seeks to flesh out a rightful authority of the baptized at liturgical celebration as baptismal priest and suggest a catechetical method for actualizing this authority. Baptismal Theology In Lumen Gentium, The Constitution …

Forgive Us Our Debts: A Catechesis of Mercy in the Early Church

Matthew and Luke’s Gospels chronicle Jesus’ instruction to the Apostles concerning genuine prayer (Mt 6:5–15; Lk 11:1–13). The words of the Our Father—Jesus’ archetype of prayer—represent the unique liturgical usage of the prayer of the evangelists’ contemporary communities.[1] The theology presented therein was assimilated by the succeeding post-apostolic generations towards a catechetical formula of instruction (traditio) and recitation (redditio) in preparation for the Christian rite of Baptism.[2] This pedagogy of spiritual instruction was meant to form within the soon-to-be Christian a recourse to God, requesting that she might remain faithful to her promises to be made in the creed in the face of her own debts (sins) and a world hostile to the Gospel; by practicing the petition “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” the catechumen was formed in the experiential truth of Christ’s reconciling act.[3] She was grounded in what Pope Francis has linguistically constructed as misericordiando—the “mercy-ing” of the Lord.[4] This catechesis of mercy is central to the exegesis and theological writings of the early Church concerning this primary attribute …

The Easter Portal

At the parish Easter Vigil, on that night when earth is wedded to heaven, nineteen people were baptized. Their stories, their lives, their very persons are now fully knit into Christ’s own life. Christ, who rose from the dead so that all of us might become sons and daughters of the triune God. Christ, who even now calls all members of the Church, his Body, toward redemption. Christ, who added hundreds of thousands last night to the communion of saints. Christ, whose body is marked by wounds of love. Forever. Christ is risen. He is truly risen. Forever. The redemption of the world, the renewal of the peaceable kingdom, where praise rather than violence shall be the defining discourse of all humanity–it is here in figure. It is here in truth. A new crop of saints have joined us to sing our victory hymn. And now we long, we watch for the day, when all shall join around the altar of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Who takes away our sins. Who takes away …