Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Baptisms

It was the best of times, it was the...

No, actually, it really was just the best of times.

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism twice. From an outsider's perspective, they would have seemed to be your regular old run-of-the-mill baptisms: oil, water, fire, babies, crying, smiling, spitting up, you know the deal. But they were two very different experiences and I think they're worth sharing.

Baptism #1 - Here I can be seen trying
to entertain Ella after Mass.
The first baptism took place during the 11:00 morning Mass at St. Louis Church in Limestone. Two beautiful baby girls were the recipients of this holy sacrament: Ella Elizabeth, who is six months old, and Harper Ann, who is three months old. They were cousins, they were tiny, and they were absolutely adorable. 

I celebrated this baptism, as you can well imagine, according to the 1970 Rite of Baptism of Children, with the particular adaptations for being celebrated at Mass. Everything went swimmingly...the babies were quiet during Mass and actually slept through the administration of the Sacrament. Usually water+oil+fire+baby = disaster, but this was textbook perfect! After Mass the girls, just like the little saints they are now, let me hold them without any problem. 

All-in-all, a moving and beautiful experience...a true success!

The Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, on behalf
of the entire Catholic Church, waits patiently
to welcome little Dietrich. 
Then I hopped in the car and drove for the next five hours to Lewiston, my home town, for the second baptism. My good friends, Leon and Cassi Griesbach, recently welcomed their third child and first-born son, Dietrich Maximus (yes...that's his name. It...is...fantastic!) into the world. Leon has the enviable task of being the director of music at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he and Cassi have been raising their two beautiful daughters and where Dietrich was born. Can you imagine being born in Rome? It's just not fair...

Anyway, while on summer hiatus, the Griesbach's wanted to fulfill their duty as Christian parents and have their little pagan made into a Christian. I thought for sure they'd ask Father Seamus Griesbach (Leon's brother and a good friend of mine) to administer baptism, but it turns out they asked him to be the godfather...and since there's no double-dipping they turned to me. I was more than happy to oblige!

The precise moment when  Dietrich Maximus
was transformed by God's grace.
The baptism took place at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Lewiston...my home parish, the church of my priestly ordination, the church of my first Mass. Just walking back into it flooded me with memories...and now here I was, as a visiting priest, to celebrate baptism. Unlike my earlier baptism, this baptism was celebrated according to the 1961 Rituale Romanum. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI granted permission to all priests to celebrate the Mass and the Sacraments as they were celebrated prior to the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. Given my own proclivities, and the proclivities of the involved parties, it was decided that we'd use the older ritual for the administration of baptism. And it was fantastic. 

As a priest, the first Mass I celebrated was the older Mass (commonly called the Traditional Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass) and every Monday on my day off I get to celebrate this Mass. I've also had the opportunity to hear confessions and to anoint the sick/dying in the older rite, but this was the first time as a priest I had the opportunity to celebrate a baptism in the older rite. Since we celebrate the feast of St. John Vianney this week, who is one of my personal patrons and the patron of all priests, it struck me during this baptism that this was the precise manner in which he would have been baptized and in which he would have baptized. It nearly took my breath away. Humbling, beautiful, and amazing!

So two baptisms...two churches 280 miles apart...two different rituals...two different families...one single effect: the doors of salvation were opened to these children and the floodgates of heaven poured an abundance of divine grace into their souls. And it happened through my hands. 

God be praised...

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