Well, there I am, twenty-one years ago today, receiving one of the anointings from Deacon Ron at little Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Quaker Hill, Connecticut. It was a Saturday.
View Larger Map
I started my anniversary today by getting up early and going out for confession at St. Anthony Shrine here in Boston. I was the first there about a year and half after the day from the photo above, having come up from New London on the train to interview with a vocation director and try to make myself a candidate for the Order of Friars Minor. I remember kneeling at the little shrine to St. Anthony on the mezzanine, asking him to obtain for me the 'miracle' of resolving the issue of my not having been a Catholic long enough to enter religious life. I guess he came through, a good example of how prayers are answered but not always in the way we expected.
I had a good confession. The priest included the reading from Sacred Scripture in the rite, which you don't often get.
Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming [upon the disobedient]. By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way. But now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3: 5-17)Of course the old self with all that stuff has already been put to death, drowned in the Jordan on that early afternoon twenty-one years ago, and the new self put on. But, as I discovered all too soon, the old self didn't quite realize that he was dead, and though I had the grace of putting on the new self, I wore him with the awkwardness of an ill-fitting garment. In some ways that's the situation down to today, though perhaps I know better how to pray for the grace to surrender to the grace of my baptism, even if I've not yet done it, not yet succeeded in abandoning myself totally to my burial in the death of Christ and my rising into the new creation of his Resurrection.
The priest also used the option for the post-absolution prayer that has become dear to me:
May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the good you have done and any suffering you have endured be cause for the remission of your sins, the increase in grace, and eternal reward. Amen.You don't get that very often, either. I find it a very encouraging prayer, and particularly so on the day when I remember the beginning of my Christianity. For I am grateful for everything that has happened in this little adventure, and for all the people God has sent me to teach, encourage, and chastise me, and I stand in awe as I come to understand the breadth and depth of grace in my life since that day and long before. But there are moments when I'm also a little frustrated, a little tired as I look at myself and see someone who has made so little progress, a person, it seems to me, in some ways more wicked and ungodly as he was when he was baptized twenty-one years ago with no idea what he was getting into.
So it's a dear encouragement to me to hear that prayer. For with God's help I have done a little bit of good along the way and endured a little suffering as well, even if I have done the former awkwardly and the latter ungracefully. So I hope in the Lord that these form the smallest part of the overflowing good of Christ and his saints, of the Universal Church, by which the unremarkable, random, and shallow kid that I was has come to receive the great gifts of baptism and of living as a friar of St. Francis and a priest of Jesus Christ.
I came home from confession and arrived late for meditation, though I still had time to pray through the Office of Readings. I celebrated Mass for the friars with whom I have been staying, assisted by our transitional deacon who looks forward to priesthood in the spring. When I was baptized the liturgical day today was called the 'beheading' of John the Baptist. After the appearance of the 2002 Missale Romanum but before the English translation of it arrived, it was called the 'martyrdom.' Now it seems to be called the 'passion.'
I offered the Mass for everyone the Lord has given me along the way: those from whom I have received the sacraments, those who received my religious profession, everyone who has been friend, companion, teacher, director, sister, brother, mother, and father along the way, and everyone who has supported me in the little mode of self-expression and reflection that this blog has been for me over the years, something which I have continued to enjoy doing because my best guess is that the Lord means to work through it.