Not alone

Baptisms make me smile.  They also make me cry.

I did both at our parish church on Saturday, during the baptism of the daughter of some friends.  It was an occasion that was so joyful, for all parties; the couple in question have wanted to be parents for a long time, and, through adoption, they now are.   The church was full of people who have known them for years, and who have been with them through their long journey into parenthood.  The sense of prayers fufilled added an entirely new, beautiful layer of happiness to the day.

As I sat in the pew with the boys and with Scott, I thought about how much of my own spiritual life has unfolded in this church.  I’ve been a part of the community since 2001, and Scott for much longer than that.  Many of the other people in the pews, wearing their St. Patrick’s Day green and bearing blessings for the new little famly, are people we’ve known for a long time, through all the various stages of their lives.  Over the years, we’ve attended countless weddings here.  We’ve come here for baptisms and for a First Holy Communion.   Just a few months ago, we were here for a funeral, too, of a dear friend who went far too early and far too young.  But in every case, we were  not alone.  We came to this church, this place of jewel-colored stained glass and soaring ceilings, because it was a place where we could be with other people who would understand what we were feeling and experiencing.  And the older I get, the more I realize how essential that is.

I have learned that I cannot imagine my faith without other people to share it.

When we baptized Matthew and Luke — again, in the very same church where we were on Saturday — I got teary-eyed, both times.  They were tears of love, and recognition, but also gratitude that I had come to a point in my life where I could see what was beautiful and good in my childhood religion.  There were years in my early twenties where I wanted very little to do with Catholicism, years when it would have been hard for me ever to fathom that I’d one day have a blog about faith and statues of Mary all over the house and a stack of well-thumbed spiritual books on the shelf.   But I got there, through a process that was both gradual and surprising.  It was a journey that would not have happened were it not for other people, who could answer my questions and share my discoveries and respect where I was, without forcing me further along the road than I was ready to go.

And when I held tiny Matthew and tiny Luke, and saw the water poured over their heads, I could not help but get choked up.   They were getting more than a splash of water and the intoxicating smell of chrism; they were getting a family of faith.  They were getting a community.    They were getting other people to walk along with them, through the joys and the questions and the losses and the long dry spaces and the graces and all the other things that make up a spiritual life.  And I know full well that they too might exit this Church for a while, just as I did.  But I also know that once you have been a part of something larger than yourself, you are always  hungry to have that again.

And that is why I get so emotional at baptisms.  It’s the first step of a journey that we never have to walk alone.

6 responses to “Not alone