Baptism by FIRE

Baptism-byFIRENearly every Sunday at 11am Mass (we call this the Childrens’ Mass here at All Saints Parish because the constant chatter of youngsters permeates the room) an infant is baptized into the Catholic Faith. I am always in awe of the new life this child breathes into our ever thriving parish community. Generally baptisms follow a predictable pattern and afterwards the family stands proudly in the front of the church while the priest announces the newest member. Applause proceeds and mass continues. Ta Da! Success.

Today I reflected on my personal baptism experience. For no particular reason my parents waited to baptize me with my younger sister Joan, an infant. I was three—three and a firecracker mixed with a tornado (Uncle Rex routinely reminds me of my childhood nickname: “Sarah from Hell.”) That morning I was fighting every authority over me. My parents, Godparents, siblings, family members, the church parishioners and the priest were flustered and concerned. 

Guess I haven’t changed much. 

Baptism by FIRE. Let me tell you the story – 

To baptize means to wash away original sin; in other words: wipe your slate clean as a God-fearing being, free from the pain of sin and discretion. It also means to formally induct a person into the church community. Baptists might dunk you fully clothed in the river, some denominations might gently dip your head in a bathtub, but Catholic priests adorned in full liturgical garments rub scented oil and sprinkle holy water on your forehead while your parents attempt to hold you still in front of a congregation of hundreds of people. This tradition works best with small infants for obvious reasons. 

Imagine the confusion a spirited three year old girl notorious for unruly behavior. Recipe for disaster. 

I kicked and screamed while Father Todd proceeded with the sacrament and my parents watched in horror. My mother (raised in a small rural Christian church) and my Devout Catholic father agreed that perhaps I wasn’t excited about joining the religion. Nevertheless, sweet baby Joan in her headband and me in my yellow fuzz haircut were welcomed into Saint Mary’s Catholic community that morning. 

I am certain my Grandma Kate Jordan was having an anxiety attack over the embarrassment. She was always particularly concerned what the neighbors thought of The Jordans in regards to outward appearances. 

Stories you just can’t make up. 

If you aren’t young and wild can you still be old and wise? I imagine you still can. Just always find your ZEST for life. All human beings are flawed and authentic but God is perfect and his love is unconditional. 

God loves us when we are studying hard and winning spelling-bees and he loves us when we hit rock bottom and are sitting in jail. He loves us when we pray for others and he loves us when we are crying on the bathroom floor at 2am. He loves us even when we turn away from him and he encourages us to trust and honor him when we succeed. He wants us to LOVE our neighbors AND ourselves because he created us ALL in HIS image. God always offers the opportunity for forgiveness and redemption. 

The Catholic church encourages new membership and for those who are non-practicing to find inspiration in our deep-woven, inclusive community through events like fried chicken dinners, church festivals, retreat weekends, bible studies, and bingo games (I am missing tonight’s Turkey Bingo!) 

I love being a part of the universal Catholic community (even if I didn’t act like it when I was three and newly baptized). I am sure glad they didn’t give up on me. Every day I thank God for the opportunities and the family he has gifted. 

Moral of the story: Life is full of highs and lows, moments of faith and moments of sin and sadness but God and your faith community are there for you ALWAYS. Remember the story of John the Baptist. Set your heart ABLAZE with conviction and good things will come. There is ALWAYS HOPE for the future. You can hear this hope in each child’s piercing cry during mass. There are no “cry rooms” in our churches. 

Live every day with the same ZEST as a three year old fighting a seasoned priest armed with holy water. 

I am sure God got a little chuckle. He wasn’t finished with me just yet. 

Baptism by FIRE—Sarah  

PS. If you are interested in becoming a part of the Catholic Community in Southeast Indiana, visit allsaintscatholic.net