It was forty-nine years ago today. That doesn’t have a Lennon-McCartney fit, but I can sing it in my heart.
My parish of baptism is closed now. The last time I was there might have been around 2000. I still felt a familiar spirit. The pastor who baptized me seemed to impart a certain positive attitude–at least as I remember it from the few years he was there.
What do I remember from that sunny afternoon entering a cool and shadowy church? Looking up at the saint depictions in the windows and realizing that becoming a Catholic Christian was going to involve some changes in my life. I wasn’t aware of the theological or spiritual notion of conversion. I was far from the #liturgywars debate about rupture. I wasn’t really a hardened sinner at age eleven. But I had some awareness of the wrongness of using foul language, of being unkind to siblings or peers. Of not being perfect. I didn’t truly aspire to perfection, but I did realize that baptism was important enough that it suggested changes in my life.
The Lourdes grotto attracted my attention years before I learned the story of Saint Bernadette:
The baptistry was under the bell tower on that b&w image above. I was concerned about having memorized the Apostle’s Creed. The “long” one I was okay with, from Sunday Mass. Behind Fr McCarthy, I noticed the stained glass behind him: it had the words I needed.
Though I wasn’t a hardened cheater, I knew that baptismal commitment involved not using the “crib notes” in the window. I kept my eyes focused on the ripples in the water. And when the water was poured across my forehead, from the hairline above my right eye to the edge of my left eyebrow, I didn’t want the wet to be toweled away. But I accepted it. It was part of the serenity of the moment.