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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Alive in Christ

8. In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle [22]; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory [23].

~ Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II Document on Sacred Liturgy

This weekend I have class all weekend. Last night, one of my classmates announced that we were all invited to a baptism; she is the Godmother of a child who was being baptized in a manner that was being rushed for some reasons she would not divulge. The mother was living at the maternity home operated by the Missionaries of Charity, is Catholic, and agreed to have her son baptized.

So when our class (which takes place at a local church) adjourned for our one-and-a-half-hour lunch break, some of us went up to the sanctuary to be witnesses to this auspicious event.

Several things struck me immediately when we came into this small group, each having an impact of its own. First, I noticed a mother with a child. Initially I thought that she was the mother, but no, she was a witness, there to support her friend. Then I saw the little boy in question, a toddler, running around in a white satin tuxedo with Our Lady of Guadalupe embroidered on the back, coming back every now and again to hug his pregnant mother.

He was clearly the boy to be baptized. There was no father present, as you'd expect, although there were about four Missionaries of Charity...and their very holiness was so apparent in their faces. They were very similarly statured, and at times, I fully expected that if they turned around I would see Mother Teresa herself.

My devotion to her has suddenly increased. This was the first time I have ever been in the presence of the Missionaries of Charity. They were constantly smiling. They were clearly devoted to the mothers and children they serve. They were so obviously comitted to serving Jesus that He was present in every move.

Then we learned there was also to be a Mass. Great! But did we have time? Father was running late and came out to apologize, explaining he had to set up. There was no sacristan, apparently.

Some of us sat down in a pew to wait, as did a couple of the Sisters across the aisle. The little boy in his white tux ran around, seeking the Sisters. He ran into the pew, and Sister greeted him with a glowing smile, caught him up, and held him in her lap for a moment.

I was so struck by the image of her reaching arms, her veil, and that child coming to her. Suddenly I realized I was seeing a reflection of Mary, our Heavenly Mother, always ready with open arms, always ready to to catch us up, beaming, awaiting our affection, returning her own. The woman clothed as a Missionary of Charity was a very image of the Mother of God; and as I watched, my eyes teared up. All I saw was love. All I saw was Heaven; all I saw was our Mother, realizing that she treats us all in the same way. We are all her children, all so beloved.

Two of us had to leave for a moment, and then something came up that took me away. I left the church sadly, thinking I could not be there, honestly regretting it. I was torn; on one had I really wanted to eat lunch, and I brought part of our meal today for the class. On the other hand...I REALLY wanted to be at this Mass and Baptism! So I went and took care of the issue that had arisen, considered getting lunch...but could not eat. My hunger was quashed. So I walked up the stairs to the church...could I still go?

As I approached, I saw people kneeling in prayer. Was Mass well underway?

Quietly I opened the door and saw that although the candles on the altar were lit, Mass had not begun. I could attend! Yay!

So I slipped into a pew to join the very small crowd, and shortly thereafter, Mass began. We sang a hymn, and then Father opened with the Sign of the SPANISH! I had not realized the mother could not speak English, or, rather, was just more comfortable with Spanish. Father greeted the little boy, asking him a question, and began the opening prayers in Spanish. I could not hear the words due to the reverberation in the large, empty sanctuary.

One of the Sisters did the readings and the Psalm, but again, I could not understand what she was saying. Had I been closer I could have heard, but being that this was a small group, they did not engage the PA system at anything other than a very low level, which was not sufficient to reach me.

The Sisters repeated the responsorial as appropriate, so I could understand some of the words, but as I was in the back, I could not make out all of the remained silent, listening. Praying in spirit, if not in action.

Father read the Gospel also in Spanish, and it was a long one. I couldn't understand enough of what he was saying to even determine which Gospel. (Part of this may be due to a mild hearing loss I sustained a few years ago; I have trouble hearing at a certain register, and all of this was taking place within that very register.)

None of the Liturgy of the Word was done upon the altar; rather, the lector and Father stood in front of this small grouping of the faithful, and during the homily, which was also in Spanish, he directed much of what he was saying to the little boy. I could at this point understand enough of what he was saying to get the general gist of the homily; he was explaining baptism to this toddler. He was explaining God's love, and the transformation of baptism, how it would strengthen him, how the heart of Jesus would be within his own heart and make him strong.

It was so beautiful! Occasionally he would look up and speak a few English words, but most of the homily was in Spanish, spoken very carefully with clearly chosen words.

Then was the baptism. We the witnesses were invited to come forward to stand at the altar rail; in that church, the baptismal font is on the altar. I was a little unsure, but the Sister looked right at me and waved me forward smiling, and a few others also. This was a "family" thing; for the moment, we were family. One of the Sisters held the little boy as his pregnant mother stood by, smiling. I heard the words of the small exorcism ritual that takes place at the beginning of every baptism, and immediately, the tears began. I stood there, praying, and during the prayers to the Saints, I was able to respond, "Ruega por Nosotros". At the end, we prayed the "Salve Maria" in Spanish. It was a different version than one I learned some time ago, but I could pray the second part accurately.

(Santa Maria, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros peccadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte, Amen.)

I will never be able to explain how this was the most beautiful baptism I have ever witnessed; I will never be able to explain the PALPABLE grace that just encompassed all of us.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist took place on the altar as usual, but in Spanish. I knew what was happening, of course, but I did not know the Spanish responses, so I just listened.

Although I spent a semester in Mexico, I never once went to Mass. Although we were in many churches in Mexico, and Masses were going on in some of them, never once did we attend. And although I speak Spanish...I didn't understand most of the words spoken at this Mass today. It was completely humbling, and yet...transcendent. Because it didn't matter that intellectually I didn't understand the words. My soul was taking in more than I would ever be able to understand. It is our humanity that needs languages; our souls require no translations.

I knew what was happening, although a missalette would have been helpful (even in Spanish alone) so that I could have understood the words and responded. After all...I would not have needed an English translation. But the Mass was just as valuable and perhaps more beautiful than even the Latin Novus Ordo I attended...because I was at the mercy of God. We were there, we were praying so hard for this little boy, his mother, and her unborn child...each moment, each inconvenience...MEANT SOMETHING.

And although we were a small group, the Heavenly Contingent was present and the sanctuary could not contain all who were truly present.

After communion, although I tried, I could not stop the tears from overflowing once again. The presence of God sometimes does that; the recognition of grace is overwhelming; even grace not directed at us, but at a few souls most in need.

I cannot tell you the full story of this family; I don't think I'm free to do so. But this afternoon I learned the facts behind today's baptism of a beautiful toddler, and the very obvious and astounding change in him today. I will say only that his mother has been involved and is still involved in the occult, although she is a baptized Catholic. And this child apparently had been exhibiting some very bad behavior among his peers, but after his baptism, he has been a COMPLETELY different child! Please pray mightily for him, his mother, and her unborn child.


Melody K said...

Dios te salve, Maria, llena eres de gracia... I'll pray that the mom will now find the grace to put any involvement with the occult behind her, for the sake of her children.
Thanks for a moving account of being in God's presence.

uncle jim said...

Don't lose the blessed life G-d is giving you. Battles will come. Grab hold of every grace. Experience His love in the people He is drawing close to Himself. You witnessed a powerful action today. I think we are all moved by the way you share such experiences with the rest of us. I think I'm beginning to see more and more 'second chances' all around us.
Maybe that is he veil that is being lifted from me. Praise G-d

Hidden One said...

He is in my prayers!

gemoftheocean said...

Thank you for the beautiful post. Prayers for the child and his family.

Kiwi Nomad said...

I was interested by your "Mary" comments. I think I may have mentioned before that I went to Lourdes last year, and it seemed like Mary was there looking after me. I knew profound peace when I prayed through the Mariale procession each evening (where the rosary was said in various languages, and some hymns were sung.) And I had a special lunch shared with a Kiwi priest and another young Kiwi whose NZ flag I had spotted on his backpack. It seemed like Mary had noticed my confusion and loneliness in the Mass and engineered a meeting. Hard to explain why I am so certain, but the whole place was permeated with prayer.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for my baptisim, confirmation and first holy communion next year!

Thing is, am leaving everything up to the hands of God when it comes to choosing a pair of god-parents or a sponsor (the one i wish for may not be able to make it). Don't know anyone else i can choose..

Adoro said...

Kiwi ~ Be assured that our Blessed Mother knew you were there and did indeed engineer the meeting. She knows her children.

Karyn ~ God has already picked them out for you...and in the end, you'll understand teh choice. Because that's how God works. :-)

Hidden One said...

Yeah, on that note, my preferred sponsor is ruled out by both timing and restrictions against non-same-parish sponsors, so I'm concerned about my RCIA sponsor too. I haven't a clue who it'll be, and I know I've never met him or her.

Adoro said...

Hidden One ~ God has a sponsor in mind for you...don't worry... :-)

Cathy said...

Yeah, Karyn, we actually sponsored my cousin and when we got to the church on Easter Vigil night, one of the guys didn't have godparents!
So guess what?
We got TWO godchildren that night!

Anonymous said...

thanks so much..really can't wait for easter next year, and to receive Holy Communion
everyday before school starts.