I am baptizing Jennifer Helen Grignon this weekend at St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Clifton Park, New York. St. Edward’s is the parish of my niece Kathleen and her husband, Mark Grignon.
It will be a grace and blessing to be a part of that event. The heart of the day’s joy will be the baptism of this precious child — her incorporation into Christ-life and into the Christian community. But there will also be special happiness in the gathering of family from far and near. We’ll be there to celebrate Jennifer, to congratulate and support Kathleen and Mark, and to enjoy one another’s company.
For me, there are two added bonuses attached to the event — both related to the parish. The first is that the pastor at St. Edward’s is Father Jack Cairns. Jack and I were among those ordained for the service of the Diocese of Albany in the ordination class of 1963. The second is that the parish is named St. Edward in recognition of the pastoral ministry of Edward Maginn, who served as auxiliary bishop of Albany for many years. Bishop Maginn had a significant influence on the lives of many of us who were ordained in that generation.
Just the writing of these few paragraphs reminds me once again of the power of our sacramental life and of our liturgical celebrations. We typically gather around such clear, powerful symbols as bread, water, oil and wine. We have ritual prayers that are quite familiar to us all because we have heard them so often.
And yet, even with such simplicity and clarity of word and symbol, our sacramental celebrations seem always to touch us in different ways. If I were to ask Jennifer’s 11-year-old cousin, Julie, and her “30-something” Aunt Grace what the baby’s baptism stirred in their hearts, I know that I would receive two thoughtful but very different answers. If I were to ask Jennifer’s mother and father to remember their son Kevin’s baptism and to compare their reactions to that event with their reactions to Jennifer’s baptism, I’m sure that their responses also would be intriguing.
It shouldn’t be surprising that such richness is present in our sacramental and liturgical life. The mystery of the Christ-life and our participation in it is a powerful one that always attracts the person of faith. We want to go deeper, to come closer, to know more. The frustration of that reality is that we are never satisfied. The beauty of it is that we can always hope for — and frequently realize — greater intimacy, knowledge and depth in our relationships with the Lord.
This season of many confirmations has provided another kind of reminder of different ways in which to appreciate sacramental celebrations through the various stages of life. For example, I find it is always a pleasure to speak with the parents and grandparents of those we are confirming. The parents are joyful about and grateful for the gifts their children receive in the sacrament. The grandparents have similar feelings, but folded into them is their love for their own children, whose joy they share.
Another wonderful source of thought and prayer for me — and it happens more and more often — occurs when a parent tells me, “and you confirmed me 20 years ago at St. Basil’s.” There is memory in the statement. It implies a renewed relationship. It speaks of continuity and of gifts transmitted from generation to generation. I am always grateful for such moments.
I expect that sometime during this Easter season you may well be involved in a liturgical celebration. I’d encourage you to be mindful on such occasions of what the event stirs in you — memories, associations, hopes, regrets and dreams. I am convinced that when we are gathered in faith with the community of disciples, the Lord speaks to our hearts. And so often the Lord does us that favor precisely through such stirrings.
Peace to all.