Baptism calls us to service, prayer - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Baptism calls us to service, prayer

As we move deeper into Lent and come closer to the Easter feast, I express the hope that you have experienced many blessings during this sacred time. If you judge that you have not, I hope that you will be encouraged by the knowledge that these good gifts sometimes come to us slowly and in very surprising ways. Occasionally, they are actually present to us for a while before we even realize they are there. In any case, I encourage you to persevere in your Lenten practices of prayer, penance and almsgiving. The Lord is always faithful to us, although the shape, form and timing of that fidelity do not unfold according to our plans but according to God’s.

If I had to name a particular blessing for which I am especially grateful this Lent, it would be a renewed awareness of the beauty and power of my sacramental baptism into the Lord’s dying and rising within you. I had begun Lent aware that the invitation and challenge we all have this season is to be baptized or to renew our baptismal promises at Easter. While my prayer was to prepare lovingly and prayerfully for the Easter feast, its primary intention was for the grace to imitate the Lord in his service to others.

I have not given up on that intention but, as I indicated above, my prayer and thinking have centered on my baptism with a frequency and a depth I do not recall ever experiencing in quite the same way before.

It seems a gift of the Lord to me because it has drawn me to a deeper appreciation of both the call to prayer and the call to service that are wrapped up in the baptism of every one of us and for which that sacrament radically empowers us.

If all of this has been God’s gift to me — and I believe it has been — the gift has been stimulated by two identifiable human experiences.

One was with my grandniece Megan Neff during her visit to Sacred Heart for the dedication of our new cathedral. During the visit Megan, who will be 8 years old in May, asked me if I would help her with an assignment for her parish religious-education class.

I told her I’d be happy to do that, and we sat down together. Megan, with workbook in hand and taking careful notes, asked me a series of questions about her baptism: Who baptized me? Where did we celebrate the rite? Who are my godparents? Who was there? What happened? How did I react to what was going on?

I discovered in the course of the conversation that she knew most of the answers already. For example, she knew that I baptized her and who her godparents are. And, she probably knew as much as I did about who was there because her parents had already told her that information.

But the beautiful part of it was not a review of the facts. It was her child’s realization that this was an immensely important day in her life — that people who loved her traveled many miles to be with her, and that all of this took place to celebrate her new and special relationship with God and God’s family. In addition, she was able to relate her baptism to her current chore — preparing for her first experience of the sacrament of reconciliation and her first holy Communion.

I have to tell you that the conversation with little Megan drew me to remember my own baptism, those who had lovingly helped me to appreciate and grow in it over the years, and who now challenge me to live it faithfully by their encouragement and good example.

The second experience that has influenced my Lenten life is that of seeing the baptismal font at Sacred Heart Cathedral every day. I am amazed at how the beauty and strength of that font draws me to contemplate the Christ-life that is mine through baptism. Its orientation to both the altar and ambo in the church put me in mind of life’s continuity. It reminds me of how I have been strengthened by the word of God, nourished at the Eucharist and encouraged by the countless women and men, girls and boys whose journeys I have been privileged to share.

I am deeply grateful to Megan for our conversation and to all those to whom I have just alluded. Little did I realize on Ash Wednesday how much a part of my Lent they would be.

Peace to all.

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