This morning, at the celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension at Saint Thomas More Catholic Church, my daughter, Miriam Eileen, was baptized by Father John Durbin. It was such a great blessing to be surrounded by our parish community, many other friends and, most significantly, our families who came from all over the US to join us in celebrating this most important moment in Miriam’s life.
The beautiful sacramental language of the Rite of Baptism of Children (RBC) begins with the naming and claiming of a child for Christ (sometimes called a Christening). As explained in the post announcing Miriam’s birth, the act of naming is of great significance and so it was with great joy that we pronounced Miriam Eileen’s name in the presence of the assembly. With her senses signed by the Cross, Miriam formally became a catechumen and took her place in the assembly to listen to the Word of God.
On this day on which we celebrate Christ’s ascension into glory Miriam joined Christians everywhere who by
one faith, one Lord, one baptism have been
freed from sin, given a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed into his holy people (RBC).
Prior to being immersed into the water of the baptismal font
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Michelle and I were asked,
Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking by accepting the responsibility of training Miriam in the practice of the faith…[and] your duty to bring her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and neighbor? Of course the scripted answer is a simple
Yes but I have, for some time, found that the most impossible question in the entire liturgy. And so I answered in truth
God willing and a shortened version of my intended answer
No, but with the help and prayer of God and this community I accept this responsibility.
The rites accompanying baptism make clearer the significance of this sacrament which forms the basis of Christian life and enables us to be conformed more closely to Christ into whose full stature we mature. As Miriam was anointed with the sacred chrism we prayed over her:
As Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life (RBC).
you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven (RBC).
Miriam was clothed in a white baptismal gown which was also worn by Michelle, all three of her siblings, and Michelle’s mother and her siblings. She also put on a bonnet
made by [my grandmother] Rosemary’s grandmother Mottier in 1893 (Pinned inside the bonnet by my maternal great-grandmother, Julia Mottier Frank). Finally, as an expression of her baptismal garment being a new garment, washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, to be taken up with her into heaven, Miriam was swaddled in a new linen cloth beautifully edged and embroidered by a friend of ours.
Clothed in white, Miriam’s custom made baptismal candle was handed to Miriam’s godfather, Will Gwaltney, whom I sponsored in his journey toward reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church, and lit with fire from the Paschal candle as she was told to
walk always as a child of the light…keep the flame of faith alive in your heart. When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom (RBC).
As Michelle’s father, Jim, is a deacon, he was able to assist at the liturgy. As mentioned in the post announcing Miriam’s birth one of the songs which Michelle and I had sung at our wedding over seven years ago was the Song of Miriam, Exodus XV (Gallio), which was once again sung as the mediation after communion for Miriam’s baptism.
After the beautiful celebration we returned to our house for revelries in honor of Miriam’s rebirth in Christ. I had been making various brews of mead specifically for this event since November. So we imbibed gingery plum, mixed berry, pomegranate, and black cherry meads. And, with our chickens laying eggs, we have also been stock-piling dozens which we hard-boiled to make both curried deviled eggs and egg salad bruschetta. For dessert a colleague of mine made a cake in the shape of a baptismal seashell with three drops of water coming off it representative of Miriam’s baptism in the name of the Trinity.
Although some of the family has already started heading home it has been wonderful spending time with them all over the last few days.