Read: Take the Plunge

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Article Reviews

By Timothy Radcliffe (Burns & Oates, 2012)

Adult Catholics understandably approach any new treatment of the sacraments with the plea, “Tell me something I don’t already know” or, “Make me see it in a new way.” Timothy Radcliffe’s reflection on Christianity’s foundational sacraments—baptism and confirmation—does not disappoint.

Chapter by chapter he focuses a slow-motion lens on the rituals, exploring the sacraments’ histories, physical elements (water, oil, fire, white garment), actions, and spoken words. The author sees in the baptism ceremony the span of a Christian’s life in microcosm, from beginning to end. “This is the love that makes us strong children of God, to whom the future is entrusted,” he says. “It touches on the drama of being human, blessing our birth and death, our falling in love, our moments of failure, our struggle to understand the meaning of our lives, and our slow ripening into maturity.”

Our baptism—no matter when we receive it—calls us to a life of grown-up faith: “[It] may be a brief and common ritual whose significance is usually hardly noticed, but it is the drama of being fully alive in Christ. If we grasp the beauty of this simple sacrament, then the church will flourish and be strong in offering the Good News to our world, which . . .  hungers for this love.” Radcliffe challenges the church—all of us—to become a community marked by courageous, faithful endurance, which is the grace of confirmation. Such faith empowers us not to panic when our own lives and the times in which we live seem to be spinning out of control.

Take the Plunge is a must-read not only for priests and deacons but also for religious education catechists and those conducting pre-baptism sessions for parents and sponsors. Readers will want to approach this book with a yellow highlighter in hand. To bypass this book would be like stumbling upon a gold mine and mistaking its ore for coal.

This article appeared in the August 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 8, page 43).