The Catholic Prophetic (thoughts on Taavi's baptism)


I breathe in the smell of chrism oil, marked solidly on your forehead in the sign of the cross on Saturday night.  Twice, I think it was.  For good measure I suppose.

I didn't well know the priest who baptized your brothers two years ago.  Father George was Indian and kind and indulgent of our tendency to show up at mass with a homeless lot, none of us able to restrain ourselves from an overeager swaying to the music.  But Father John, who baptized you this weekend, is our friend.  Or at least as close to a friend as a boss can be, but he came over for Christmas dinner so that counts for something.  John is white as snow, a Midwesterner to his core, worlds away from Father George with his brown skin and thick accent I often struggled to understand.  And then there's Father Charlie, who concelebrated your baptism mass but whose bum shoulder meant he couldn't be the one to dip you and make you cry.  Charlie is from Ghana, and the fact that you boys get to see a black man in a place of authority is a gift not lost on me in the times we live in.  Like when Kevin prepares the bread and the wine, his dark sacristan hands confident and steady at the altar.  I lean in close and whisper to Alyosha.  There's Kevin! Isn't it so cool that a Ugandan is up there?!

He nods his little head but I can't read him. Maybe it's because he's a child who has known nothing but a life of tapestry.

When we first felt the winds of change breeze across our cheeks, your daddy and me, we thought about Anglicanism.  It made so much sense to follow that trail, with its beautiful liturgy and catechesis, crossing over not insignificantly with Catholicism but carrying a lighter sense of severity in the minds of our Protestant friends and family.  In the end there were many reasons we jumped off into the deep end, but one of them was the universal component of the Catholic church.  How can we mindfully raise a transracial family, your daddy wondered, if our religious affiliation literally means "white"?

So here you find yourself, 3 months old and so freshly Catholic that anyone who bends to kiss you still inhales a waft of heaven.  I love this faith we've folded you into, tucking the most critical corners in tight and not minding about the rest, the way I swaddle you snug when the sun goes down.  It's a patchwork quilt of a collective, and the diversity of thought and culture and practice moves me to no end.

My heart's desire is to model for you what it is to be the Catholic prophetic: a voice that is for all people, all life, all from love. I will mostly fail but maybe I'll get it right here and there, and by God's grace maybe that will be enough to propel you further than what I can see.  You have begun your journey, my little one.  May the Holy Spirit prove an ever present companion for you.  May you trust the light exists when all you see is darkness.  May you dare to counter hate with love, offense with forgiveness.  May you live out the life of God that is within you.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; world without end. Amen.

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)