In witnessing Baptisms, a cradle Catholic remembers her own baptismal identity.
Guest blog by Peg Conway
How do I keep the faith as a woman in the church? The answer to this question has not been obvious. At times, “keeping the faith” feels entirely distinct from being “in the church.” When I’m preoccupied with the hierarchy and church rules that seem harsh, I begin to wonder if I really am part of the church; or even, should I be part of it? But I am. I can’t let it go.
As a young adult, just out of graduate school, I was invited to be a sponsor in our parish RCIA program, a process previously unfamiliar to me. I went to the weekly sessions to reflect on scripture and hear speakers, met with my candidate individually, and for the first time in my life, attended the Easter Vigil. Seated in a front pew with the RCIA, I watched in awe as a woman named Leslie, dressed in a brown robe, stepped out of her sandals, handed off her glasses, and entered the shallow baptismal pool that had been assembled in the sanctuary, joining the pastor who was similarly garbed.
She knelt while he poured bowls of water over her head, baptizing her in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the water’s splashing sound jolted me with amazement. The radiance of Leslie’s face brought tears to my eyes as she emerged from the pool, dripping, to be wrapped in towels by her sponsor and led away to don her white garment. It was a night of abundant joy. Alleluia!
A cradle Catholic baptized in infancy, I was so moved by this experience. Perhaps it awakened what had been lying dormant—a sense of my own calling and status as a member of Christ’s body, where he is priest, prophet, and king forever.
I have been to 20 more Easter Vigils since that one and have witnessed countless other infant baptisms, including those of my three children, now teenagers. Attending the Easter Vigil became a family tradition when they reached early grade school. Though it is long and goes late, there simply is no other way to receive what it conveys so powerfully. From the creation of the universe to the dying and rising of Jesus, from saints and sinners to sacraments, it’s all there.
At the Vigil and in life, I’ve gradually discovered, we are part of the story, not mere observers, because of baptism. Deep in my bones, I know that my baptismal identity is impervious to church politics and patriarchal pronouncements. Its indelible mark presents a lifelong invitation to questioning and growth; an ongoing call to care for others at home and in the wider community; and an affirmation that I am one of God’s beloveds, in whom God is pleased.
My faith is in the risen Christ who trusted the news of his resurrection to a woman.
Guest blogger Peg Conway is a writer in Cincinnati, Ohio, who has contributed to U.S. Catholic and blogs at Sense of the Faithful.
As a supplement of the January 2011 special issue on women, U.S. Catholic is asking guest bloggers, “How do you keep the faith as a woman in the church?” To submit your answer (about 500 words), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.