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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: April 10, 2021
By John Paul Hartnedy
Reverently, my friend held the pumpkin over the makeshift baptismal font. As I poured the cleansing waters over its wrinkled stem, saying “Cecila, I baptize you …” the aura of holiness succumbed to peals of laughter and the chapel echoed with joy. Four seminarian friends and I were desperately trying to film baptism practicum videos for our sacraments of initiation class but were finding it more difficult than expected.
I’m not sure who was more disgruntled at our inability to keep a straight face: the half-drowned pumpkin we used in place of a baby or the friend we conscripted to record all the videos. Several attempts later, much water was spilled, but our gourd was adequately baptized, and I had a renewed respect for priests, deacons and the families who celebrate this sacrament so smoothly.
Seeing the zeal of those desiring full communion with the Church, the readiness they display to live out daily conversion and the joy when they are baptized are an annual source of inspiration for me.
This year in seminary formation, I’ve been blessed to accompany the RCIA candidates at a local parish in San Antonio. While I did have a role in guiding them, I was surprised at how much they were ministering to me with their zealous love for Christ, desiring to live out their baptism intentionally every day.
For many of us, myself included, baptism is a sacrament we experienced so early in life that we don’t remember it. Because of this, we can forget its ongoing impact on us. Others, including many in RCIA, have vivid memories of their baptisms, which they can return to for renewal and strength in times of need. All of us, though, come to understand our baptisms more fully over time: what it means to be a child of God.
This is one reason I love the Easter Vigil, because it reminds us of our baptism. In a powerful moment during Mass, those to be baptized and the entire congregation renew their baptismal promises, rejecting the illusory sinful life Satan offers and recommitting to strive after holiness, virtue and newness of life in Christ. Seeing the zeal of those desiring full communion with the Church, the readiness they display to live out daily conversion and the joy when they are baptized are an annual source of inspiration for me.
The Easter Vigil and the season of new life it initiates for us connect us to our baptisms and call each of us to daily transformation. As St. Paul likes to say throughout his letters to the early Christian communities, baptism is what joins us intimately with Christ in his death, so that we rise with him as a new creation.
Rather than remaining an underappreciated sacrament that happened so long ago for many of us, baptism in light of Easter is restored to its central place as the source of our identity as children of God, giving meaning, purpose and depth to our lives. From the waters of baptism flow the streams of our vocations, for in calling us into the body of Christ, God sends us forth on a mission to bring others into contact with his life and grace.
Journeying with the RCIA candidates to baptism and Easter was transformative for me. I’m also grateful there are plenty more “pumpkin practicums” for me to smooth out the rite.
John Paul Hartnedy, a member of St. Edward Church in Little Rock, is a diocesan seminarian attending Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas. This article was originally published in Arkansas Catholic. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.