August 29, 2010

18th Anniversary of Baptism

It was eighteen years ago today that I exited the Freeman dormitory by the back basement stairs and walked through the still-empty campus of Connecticut College to the edge of North Lot on my way to Williams St. and the little church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Quaker Hill. There I was baptized, and an odd and meandering ongoing journey--long hidden in God and only obscurely revealed to me--suddenly became my public life.

What did I think I was doing that day? Perhaps I imagined that I was putting to rest a question that I had long wondered about, i.e. what religion was I? I hardly realized that this was to frame the question all wrong; in fact I was trying to begin to surrender to a call that had always been there in some form. Have I progressed in that surrender after eighteen years? Most of the time I don't feel as if I have. In some ways I feel as though I have regressed! But none of that is the point. Who cares about me? This is a story about God, not Charles. Besides, Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

Perhaps I thought I was following the first tastes of the newly discovered horizon revealed in prayer. True enough, but I had not spent enough time in prayer to realize that these experiences called me so strongly because they hearkened back and resonated with certain confusing but attractive and intriguing interior experiences I routinely had as a small child. God had been there, a Mystery subtle and obscure on the one hand, but overwhelming and undeniable on the other.

If someone had been able to tell me what would become of my baptismal vocation, about all of the twists and turns and griefs and struggles up to this very day, I probably wouldn't have believed it. If I had, I might have feared to accept the sacrament. Sometimes it is an expression of God's mercy that we don't know what is to come. God knows knows that perhaps we can better accept our struggles for Him a little at a time, one day at a time.

My fear was just a shadow
And then a voice spoke in my head
And she said, "Dark is not the opposite of light
It's the absence of light."

And I thought to myself
She knows what she's talking about
And for a moment I knew
What it was all about.

(Beastie Boys, "Namaste")

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