Today is Labour Monday - no, that is not a Sacrament - not even a sacramental - I only mention it to explain how it is I am able to write a bit on a Monday.
It is, indeed, a bit of a marvel that I am able to write anything, three-day week-end or not. This has been an extremely busy week-end. Susan and I spent all of Saturday and much of today shifting furniture between the house and the 'sleep-out' room that is my bedroom-cum-office.
And Sunday was the day of ... well, Sunday was the reason for the title.
About a week ago Eddie told Susan and me that he intended to be baptised. This was news of mixed import to us, as Eddie had been baptised when he was an infant. So I understood that what he intended was to go through a form of adult baptism. By the end of the week, Eveline had chosen to follow him in this step. Eddie wanted Susan and me to be present.
It has been a bit of a stormy week for us all, debating, considering, and, finally, deciding that we would go to the event. Although no re-baptism is possible for a person who has once been validly baptised, I understood that this was Eddie's way of affirming his determination to follow Christ. That is a determination that I most emphatically want to support. I suppose one can view this as a renewal of baptismal vows.
It had long been the plan for Sue and me to spend yesterday with Eddie and Eveline - our monthly lunch with them - and the baptism was to be at his church's evening service, at 5PM.
Calling it a 'church service' is, perhaps, a bit misleading. It was indistinguishable from a Christian rock concert. I must confess that the volume of the band was such that I genuinely think a steady exposure would be damaging to one's hearing. Thankfully, the noise ... er, music :-) ... didn't last too long.
There was a sermon (on faith) - I have heard worse from Catholic priests. It was a bit of a trip back in time for us - the standard evangelical sermon urging (rightly!) faith in God, followed by a call for decision.
The baptism itself - looked like about twenty persons were baptised - was fully-clothed, full immersion - full-on! I couldn't hear anything of the words used in the baptism, so I don't know whether any there who had not been baptised before were in fact baptised now or not - that is, I don't know if it was baptism "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." I hope for their sake it was, and, indeed, I prayed then, and since, for all those who were baptised.
This morning Sue and I went to Mass, as we usually do. It was, in style, quite a contrast! Well, of course, it was a week-day Mass, not a full Sunday Mass, and there were only about 20 people there. There was no music, but, had there been, it would not have threatened anyone's hearing. And Father's 5-minute homily did not end with a call to persons who wanted to determine to follow the Lord to raise their hands!
All that is true, but the deep difference was stark, and real. Eddie will read this post, and I do not wish to be writing a sermon to him, nor to give the impression that I am not very glad we decided to go to his re-baptism ceremony. I am deeply glad that we went, and pray for him and Eveline and their children. Nonetheless, last night during the baptisms, I had a sudden thought: what is happening here is John's baptism. These people are undergoing a baptism of repentance - and well they, and each of us, should. If the formula was Trinitarian, even although the minister performing the baptisms made clear, in his speech, that he did not believe in baptismal regeneration, then this was valid baptism for the unbaptised. Nevertheless ... what I thought of was John's baptism.
At the end, after the sermon, Sue and I left. There had been some good music - that of it that could actually be heard, of course! - and wonderful zeal, and a sermon that I could well take to heart on believing God and trusting Him. Still - something was missing.
Not something, actually; Someone. This morning God condescended to give Himself to me Bodily, in His full Substance. I cannot forget that. I cannot do without that. I can readily contrast some points of Protestant worship with Catholic to the credit of the Protestant. There is much that they do well that we do not (though I would either have to find a congregation with less powerful amplifiers, or else wear earplugs :-)). They can give me Jesus spiritually. They can give me His Words. They can tell me of His love.
I am thankful for what the Reformed Church gave me. I am thankful for what the Baptist Church gave me before that. I am thankful to Eddie and Eveline for inviting me. But there is something that only the Catholic Church can give me. The Catholic Church gives me Jesus. I cannot do without that. It is my prayer for Eddie and Eveline, and for all men and women, that they come to know Him Whom to receive is life eternal.