Into Great Waters

Some time ago my pastor had asked my colleague and me to put together a baptism reflection event along the model of one he had attended. Although it was never perfectly communicated what everyone’s expectations were, I began modeling the evening of reflection on those pieces which my pastor had specifically remembered: folks bringing their baptismal memories (candles, garments, photos, etc.) in order to prompt the sharing of their stories, a catechetical component about the primacy of baptism, and a recommitment to our baptismal promises. Because I knew my friend, Kim Belcher, was is in the process of writing her dissertation for her doctorate in liturgy (Notre Dame) on the topic of baptism and the Trinity, I was able to get her to come and assist in our evening of mystagogia. Although the weather was terrible and kept a large number of people away, we still had 25 people who came to enjoy one another’s stories, dive more deeply Into Great Waters, and bless one another from our baptismal font. My pastor was very pleased with the event, the experience folks had of it, my catechetical part, and Kim’s insights; we intend to do a similar program again in the future.

This of course meant we got to spend the whole weekend with Kim, her husband Matt, and their 18-month old son, Thomas. During the time they were here we had a beautiful snow fall that blanked everything on Saturday and made for a stunningly beautiful scene Sunday morning as the sun in the clear sky reflected on the snow covered trees, ground, and roofs. We had a wonderful time hanging out with Kim and Matt, watching Thomas interact with the dogs, cats, chickens, and rabbits, and—as usual—enjoying good food. I suppose the thing that impressed me the most having not seen Thomas in six months was how much this 18-month old was able to participate in communication, though speech was not something within his grasp (besides ya, no no, and some onomatopoetic sounds related to various animals). He would respond to questions, carry out requests, and clearly wanted to communicate. All of this, however, was something he clearly knew would be thwarted by conditions beyond his control, such as Dad’s insistence that he wear pants outside, and his lack of physical strength to ring the bell alone. Anyway, as is often the case, I began to see how most of our basic human interactions are already in place by this time in development.

Having just done a talk on the relevance of monastic spiritual insights to the domestic Church the prior evening, I naturally was lead to rather interestingly notice that much of what ascetic practices invite us toward willingly are, in fact, the very things we suffered through as we tried to insist on our own wills as infants: obedience to superiors, silence (not so much in the sense of quiet, which was not the case, but rather in inability to bend others to our will through our powerful words), attentive listening, wonder and reverence for the world about us, stability, and poverty (owning nothing, but secure in knowing it will be given us according to our needs). I suspect, to go along with Kim’s reflections on the phenomenology of infancy and its impact on baptismal theology, I may be diving into an examination of the relationship between infancy (infans, remember, means one who is unable to speak) and the spiritual ascent. As Michael Casey, OCSO pointed out in Sacred Reading, the wonderful irony of the Incarnation, that the Word became an infans, was not lost on the medieval monks.

Anyway, it was a great weekend. We hope to be able to visit Kim, Matt, and Thomas in Chicago sometime in the near future. And we expect to be able to host Into Great Waters at St. Thomas More again. Check out some pictures of Thomas, snow, etc.

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