It’s Sunday afternoon on a warm Cheviot day, and after a weekend of Masses I’m about to pour a cold beer and read a novel for a couple of hours.
After giving the same homily four times, and hearing the comments of parishioners after each Mass, I’ve got a pretty good idea which of my homily thoughts provided the ‘images that stick’ to quote Pope Francis giving ‘tips for homilists in his November 24 exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” p.157
After Masses today many people were chatting about not knowing the date of their baptism, some even unsure where they were baptised. I quoted Francis speaking at last week’s Wednesday Audience. He said:
“Many of us have no memory of the celebration of this Sacrament, and it is obvious why, if we were baptized soon after birth. I have asked this question two or three times already, here, in this square: who among you knows the date of your Baptism, raise your hands. It is important to know the day on which I was immersed in that current of Jesus’ salvation. And I will allow myself to give you some advice… but, more than advice, a task for today. Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism and that way you will keep in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism. To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past – and not by our own will but by that of our parents – and that it has no impact on the present. We must reawaken the memory of our Baptism. We are called to live out our Baptism every day as the present reality of our lives.
At each Mass, no more than a couple of people knew the date of their baptism. I understand this since it is only ten years since I made the effort to discover the date of my baptism. Now, every year, I celebrate. People normally celebrate life’s great moments: birthdays, wedding anniversaries etc. But if we don’t know the date, we miss the opportunity to celebrate.
Most of us have no memory of our own baptism. I was just ten days old when my parents took me to be baptised in the little Catholic Church in Otematata (pictured). It was a priority for them that I be baptised.
As soon as my mother and I were discharged from the hospital, my father drove us home via the church where Fr. Reg O’Brien had agreed to meet us. There, in a ritual as old as Christianity, I was baptised with water “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The ceremony was dignified, and every word was taken from the ancient rite. The only people present were my parents, my godparents, one of my grandmothers, Fr. O’Brien, and me.
We probably went back home afterwards for a cup of tea and scones and I would have just slept after such a big day.
It is significant that even before I entered the home of my parents, I had entered the home of God.
From all outward appearances, my Baptism would have been a simple occasion since the emphasis was not on the human celebration of friends and family. The emphasis was on what God was doing for me. God was initiating me into His divine life.
Timothy Radcliffe, the former Master General of the Dominicans titled his recent book on Baptism “Taking the Plunge.” His passionate emphasis in the book challenges Christians to “rediscover the beauty of baptism [which] touches the deepest dramas of human life: birth, growing up, falling in love, daring to give oneself to others, searching for meaning, coping with suffering and failure, and eventually death”. “read a small section of the book at this link: “Taking the Plunge”
Today I offered a challenge to the parishioners of the Hurunui. Now I share the same challenge with you all.
It is easy enough these days to find out when you were baptised. After one of this weekend’s Masses a parishioner told me of sending a recent email to the parish where she was baptised on the other side of the world. She had a response within a few hours!
So on this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, you might decide to find out the date (and place) of your Baptism. Some will be able to ask parents, and for others the information is just a Google-search (for the Church or parish) and an email request away.