Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Along a Path to the Kingdom"

I recently had the privilege and joy to validate a marriage in the Catholic Church between two people who were civilly joined for over 14 years.  The groom, a cradle Catholic and his bride, a Jewish woman, made the decision together to have their marriage blessed by the Church.  

Why they did not seek a dispensation to marry in the Church all those years ago no longer matters.  What is important is that he is now eligible to participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church.  He attends mass regularly and she is often with him.  They are very nice people and a lovely couple together.  Our community is much richer for their presence.

The journey that led them to stand before the altar in a Catholic Chapel began with one of those common incidents we see so often in the Church.  Someone asked him to be the godfather to their child.  A simple enough request.  Our groom was told he needed a letter from his home parish in order to be the godfather.  When he attempted to get the letter certifying that he met the qualifications to fulfill this honorable duty he came up against Church Law. 

At first he was told that the church where he regularly attended mass was not his home parish, so they could not write a letter for him!?!?!?  Now, I think there may have been something lost in the translation in this statement, but it appears that their parish’s secretary wields enormous powers over who can and who cannot be a member of their community.  But this story is not about parish secretary horror stories and poor understanding of what constitutes parish membership.

For our groom this should be a no-brainer!  After all, he was born into a Catholic family, had received all his sacraments as a student while attending the parish school, so easy-peasy!  Just call up the parish where his mother still attends daily mass and speak to the deacon.  Now you know this is where it went off the rails for him.  Those darn deacons!  
Now this was an easy fix.  After a few meetings with the deacon and the completion of a few forms seeking a dispensation from the Bishop the couple were able to have their marriage blessed in the Church.  What made this an easy fix was a husband who wanted to reacquaint himself with the practice of his faith, a wife who was willing and eager for their marriage to take place in a Catholic Church, before a priest or deacon and two witnesses (Mom also attended to make sure it all went well) and no other impediments that needed to be overcome, such as a previous marriage by either of them.
This went well and had a happy ending or rather a happy new beginning for our groom, his wife, his Mom and their entire family.  He stood up as godfather for one of the newest members of our faith community and by his witness to his faith should fulfill the duties of that honorable role very well.

The recently ended Synod of Bishops on Family Life has much buzz around it concerning its outcome, but  it is too soon to know for certain what the results of these discussions will be.  So many people are hopeful that the teachings of Jesus Christ in His Church are made understandable and applied with love and mercy, so more of God’s children can come to know Him better.  He calls each of us by name and invites us to share in His Kingdom for His way is far above our understanding, but it is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Deacon Don

Monday, October 6, 2014

From the RCIA Diaries

A young woman in the RCIA asked about the Rite of Baptism.  She wanted to know what was going to happen when she was baptized.  I started to talk about having the stain of original sin removed and was beginning to move into the story of creation and Adam and Eve when she interrupted me.

“No,” she said, “that’s not what I want to know. I want to know how I will be baptized.”  Now I started on the use of water and the Trinitarian formula when again she stopped me.  “Deacon,” she said with some exasperation.  “I want to know if you dunk us under the water!  Will my hair will get wet!”

Many years ago before I was ordained, I attended a workshop on the Triduum given by a priest who’s name I’ve misplaced, but who talked about the Triduum, especially the Easter Vigil Mass which continues to stay with me.  His description of this celebration on this mystical night fired my imagination; making want to share in the experience of the Vigil in the same way.  There was darkness, chanting, fire and candles, processions, proclamations, light, more singing, readings (all seven of them), Glory and praise, ringing bell, prayers and more prayers - all lasting until the early hours of the morning when the celebration greeted the rising sun and the empty tomb.  Envisioning this celebration of our Lord’s victory over death made the heart swell and the eye tear.

He described the baptism as beginning in a very solemn way.  The Candidates lined up in white robes (with bathing suits on underneath) ready to step into the fountain in the vestibule of the church with the whole community watching.  As they entered the chest deep pool the priest held them, saying in a loud voice, “I baptize you in the name of the Father (dunk), the Son (dunk), and the Holy Spirit (dunk)!”  Each newly baptized Christian emerged from the pool dripping from head-to-toe and smiling from ear-to-ear.

Now the moment arrives when the newly baptized are anointed on the crown of their head with the Oil of Salvation, as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King.  On a tray are small carafes of Chrism Oil – one for each.  The fragrant oil drips and runs down their hair onto their faces and shoulders as the priest pours the saving oil over them: investing each as a member of the Body of Christ; sharing in everlasting life.

As I remembered this workshop and the impression it made on me, not just on the way the Vigil was celebrated, but on the awesomeness of the Vigil itself and its significance for all people, I smiled.  I am reminded of Peter, when the Lord wanted to wash his feet at the Last Supper.  As Jesus explains to him why it was necessary, he cried, "Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head."  

Would only that each person approach baptism with this same full, heart-felt presence of what God is doing in our lives – freeing us from darkness and death in sin – up into light and new life; raising us up to be with Him and the joy and peace of heaven forever and ever.

Deacon Don