Friday, March 20, 2009

My Baptism Day

On this Friday, during Lent, when I am supposed to be fasting, I look at the calendar and am reminded that today is the anniversary of my baptism into the Catholic faith. Also, incidentally, my half-year birthday. Either way, good enough reason to celebrate.

On this day in 1965, my mother, newly widowed, and godparents stood before Father Albert Piekarski in the church of St. Augustine in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and promised to teach me and model for me the joys and the discipline of being a disciple of Jesus as a Catholic Christian. I never really got to know my godparents, as mom was just coming back from California after burying my dad, and taking grandma and me back out with her to live. I did have many fine substitute godparents. Grandma, a Jehovah's Witness, daily took me onto her lap and read the Bible to me. I was fascinated with the "red letter version", where Jesus' words are printed in red and began reading long before I started school.

I do not remember learning to pray, but some of my earliest memories are of saying my bedtime prayers with mom. We always wore our Sunday best to Mass when I was little, complete with chapel veil for mom, and a little round piece of lace that we little girls wore whose name escapes me, for me. I had little white gloves and a little white covered basket "purse" for my hankie and if I misbehaved there was no crying room for me - I got taken out for a spanking and solitary confinement in the old Rambler.

Our parish school did not have kindergarten at that time, so mom had an extra year before she chose to sacrifice a good portion of her paycheck to send me to Catholic school. There was no tuition assisstance, no tax credit for school of choice, and on top of all that, there were uniforms and shoes and stockings to buy, extra jackets and sweaters for my sickly self, lunch boxes and lunches (no school lunches then), myriad school supplies (my favorite), and miscellaneous for special activities, band, field trips, etc. We were fortunate to have mostly nuns teaching us at that time, nearly all of whom seemed to love their work, and us. You have not lived until you have played a vigorous game of four-square or kick-ball with a nun in full habit. There was a saint for every situation and then there were angels! There were plenty of priests and we had several daily Masses, special school Masses, regular confession times where there were actually priests waiting in the confessionals for you. There were all kinds of feast days. Anyone who desired could help with reading, singing, playing music, serving (boys only back then). Of course there were many volunteers because it meant getting out of class for practice! We were taught to have a very personal relationship with Jesus, Mary, the angels (especially our guardian angel) and the saints. Jesus, God the Son, our loving brother, was the big man, but it always helped to have intercessors and friends on your side up there to put in a good word for you.

Of course there were the less enchanting times, but the whole point of it is learning to draw on the strength of the good stuff to get through the bad stuff. We Catholics call it GRACE. We receive it in the sacraments - in baptism, holy communion, confession, confirmation, holy anointing for all; matrimony and holy orders for those called to that life. We receive it at Mass. We receive it at those odd times when God touches our hearts and fills us up. And it all started with Baptism.

So after Stations of the Cross tonight, there will be a meatless feast, and maybe a teeny little cake with a candle on it, in remembrance of my birth into Jesus' awesome life.

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