By Kathy Coffey
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does
not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).
In early spring, the world is bleak and brown, whipped by a cold wind.
As the new season makes its gradual entrance, trees and grass reach deep into their
roots for nurture.
Perhaps it is like that with belief. When the world seems wintry, people
of faith grip the bedrock and from that common core, surge into new life. We reach
down into roots sunk so far in tradition we cannot see their source. But we know they
are there .We count on them for life.
If we try to go it alone, we quickly discover our impoverishment. To
ignore Gods graciousness is to risk condemnation. To count on it is to take our
place among the great ones who went before us.
While we like to amuse ourselves with fantasies of martyrdom, we all
face less dramatic Calvaries. When we do so with faith, we transform them to holy ground.
The irritating colleague, the whiny child, the boring job, the repetitive housework,
the chemotherapy or long commute: All represent the place to which Christ calls us,
the arena where belief becomes action.
Do we believe that the little stuff of our life can help shape us for
greatness? Or do we relegate holiness to apostles and saints, centuries ago? Just as
we can neglect belief, so we can make the mistake of distancing the grace of Baptism
to a past event. But we can draw on its power today. Any gardener knows that roots
sunk deep in soil need water. So too the baptismal symbols offer a fresh start, full
of freedom, vigor and potential.
When we bring that symbolism into each day, we discover that we are washed
not only in water, but also in a new way of seeing. On the natural plane, we can all
appreciate rain after drought or a hot shower after dirty work. The psalmist describes
our profound yearnings for God:
O God, you are my God
for you I long!
For you my body yearns;
for you my soul thirsts,
Like a land parched, lifeless,
and without water (63:2).
Jesus referred to himself as an exuberant fountain quenching this thirst: Let
anyone who thirsts come to me and drink (John 7:37).
The post-baptismal anointing is an ancient act of strengthening. In the
fourth century, St. Ambrose described the attraction of fragrant oils: We shall
run following the perfume of your robes. If the perfume/lotion industry can capitalize
on lovely scents, Christians can recognize more profound overtones: We are marked with
the symbol of Gods beauty.
We who fret over problems at 3 a.m. know they become less formidable
in the daylight. On his deathbed, the blind writer Goethe pleaded,More light! Jesus
speaks to our dread of darkness: While I am in the world, I am the light of the
world (John 9:5). One gift of Baptism is the presentation of a burning candle
with the words: Receive the light of Christ.
Clothed in Christ
We know the difference clothing can make and how we feel when a new shirt
or suit rates a compliment. Garment imagery runs throughout Scripture, where we read: For
all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians
3:27).Wearing the garment of identification with Jesus can make us more courageous
A name change in Scripture signaled a new person (Abram and Sarai to
Abraham and Sarah, Cephas to Peter). So our baptismal name gives us a new identity
in Christ. We know the security of the Good Shepherd calling us by name. The Book of
Revelation adds, I will write on you the name of my God (3:12).
The gifts of Baptism renew our best selves so we can get on with the
business of re-creating the world. Energized by shared beliefs that root us firmly,
graced by symbols that ground our identity, we can focus on dreams and hopes, not fears
How could we neglect such a vibrant source of renewal? Jesus tells us
that if we fail to live out of our deep beliefs and ignore Baptisms grace, we
are at risk of condemnation.
Next: Do not worry about your life
Talk about a Baptism you attended that had special meaning
When have you experienced the light of Christ in
Baptism of Desire
By Judith Dunlap
In the grandma circuit Im part of, its not unusual to hear
friends express great concern when a grandchild is not going to be baptized. What will
happen to their innocent offspring? One friend is fond of quoting from her old grade
school catechism, reminding us that there is a type of Baptism called Baptism of desire.
She wonders if the overwhelming desire of a grandmother would count. Not quite.
When a close friend was faced with this situation, I went with her to
a favorite priest who gave her both personal spiritual guidance and sound advice. He
was compassionate and encouraging. He talked to her about trusting in Gods goodness.
He counseled her to give up any naggingeven the subtle kind. Most important, the
priest said, continue to pray, and witness your own faith to both your grandchild
and his parents.
My priest friend offered some additional helpful suggestions: Take a
grandchild to Mass when you are babysitting (with the parents permission, of
course). Say meal prayers out loud and include the youngster. When they are older,
invite your grandchildren to do some Christian service with you.
Jesus is the way, he reminded us. And children can grow up in the
way without hearing about Jesus at home. They can grow in love and kindness.
They can give themselves in unselfish service. And perhaps, in time, they will discover
that they are already walking with Jesus.
If, through no fault of their own, they do not come to associate their loving
way with the Christian way, we need to remember that God is good, the champion
of mercy. God may claim them as his followers, even if they dont claim it for
themselves. And we all know that what God desires is sure to count
As a family, look at photos or videos of family Baptisms. Share
your memories of the day with each of your children.
Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
By Frank Frost
Who would ever expect a documentary about a flock of wild parrots to show up in a
theater, much less turn out to be exceptionally entertaining? The Wild Parrots of
Telegraph Hill in San Francisco does just that.
The film starts with a long-haired hippie standing on Telegraph Hill, surrounded by
parrots eating from his hand, sitting on his head and shoulders and on nearby electrical
wires. He calls the birds by name. Suddenly they all take off.
Filmmaker Judy Irving (who produced, directed, shot and edited the film) introduces
us to Mark Bittner by using the device of having fascinated passersby stand in for
the audience and ask many of the things we wonder about: Do the birds belong to Mark?
No, they are wild. Does he feed them and care for them? Yes. Then how can they be wild?
And where did they come from? Probably they originated as parrots set free by their
owners. They then propagated and prospered in the wild of urban San Francisco.
As the story of Mark and the parrotsactually cherry-headed conures for the most
partunfolds, we meet individual birds. Through close-ups the excellent camera
work makes this an intimate film despite the wide-open spaces the birds enjoy. And
Mark describes to us the unique personalities of individual birds he has come to recognize.
Its amazing what he can learn simply by attentive observation. What if I were
that attentive to my surroundings, I ask myself. What am I missing that Im not
Mark has named one main bird character Mingus. Unlike most parrots that dont
want to be shut in, Mingus doesnt want to be shut out of Marks house. Mark
lets him nest there, but when he misbehaves he bans him. Mingus always returns repentant.
We learn that parrots have monogamous mates and that they show a need for intimacy,
a need to care for one another. Picasso and Sophie form one couple, she a diminutive
bird, he a big lug. Pushkin and Olive are another case: Theyre on again/off again.
Pushkin finally divorces Olive because of her destructive behavior. And Connor, an
older blue-headed conure, seems lonely, unable to find a mate.
Tension in the story arises from the red-tailed hawk that preys on young and lame
birds. We learn to share the parrots wary fear of attack.
The storys arc leads us to understand how Mark, a man with no visible means
of support, came to his position. Then we see how this leads to a climactic parting
from the birds when he is evicted from the apartment he has been using without charge
for three years.
By the time Mark says goodbye to the birds he has become most attached to, we fully
understand how he can say he loves them. In fact, we have learned a great deal from
our feathered friends about the meaning of being human.
What values do you find in this film?
By Judy Ball
St. Benedict (480?-550?)
Almost 1,500 years after he lived, St. Benedict continues to touch the
Church he so loved. During his lifetime he had great influence on Western monasticism.
Today, Benedictine spirituality continues to thrive. Even 21st-century popes honor
him by taking his name!
Born into a distinguished Italian family, Benedict studied in Rome—but
not for long. He yearned for the life of a hermit, found a cave high in the mountains
and lived there for several years. Others, also drawn to the monastic life, saw a leader
He established a group of monastic communities and served as abbot of
one. The most famous of the communities was at Monte Cassino, where Benedict wrote
the Rule by which he and the other monks were to live.
While some saw excessive self-denial as the only way to perfection, Benedict
wrote a Rule that could be lived by ordinary people. It emphasized moderation and balance.
Discipline was important, but so were humility, obedience and respect for individual
differences. His Rule became the standard for monastic life in the Western Church.
Benedict was the ideal abbot. He had a special talent for reading the
souls of others and seemed to have a natural understanding of human nature. These were
gifts that came in handy as he struggled to understand and appreciate the needs of
each of the men under his care.
Though Benedict lived a secluded life, he is credited with helping to
spread Christianity throughout Europe. The monasteries he founded, along with his Rule,
had influence through their focus on learning and culture as well as piety. Their emphasis
on peace and equality spoke to a society embroiled in violence. Benedicts feast
day is July 11.
Some people, perhaps most, are content to cruise through life. But not
Dennis Skelton—a lifelong spiritual seeker. Anyone who was born a Methodist and attended
a Southern Baptist seminary before becoming a Catholic has earned such a title. But
his search didnt end when he entered the Church in the early 1990s. It took him
in new directions.
In 1993, Mr. Skelton became a Benedictine Oblate at Saint Meinrad Archabbey
in St. Meinrad, Indiana. In doing so he joined the long line of men and women who have
chosen to follow the Benedictine tradition while continuing to live in the world. The
Rule that St. Benedict wrote so many centuries ago speaks to each age in new ways.
The 21,000 Oblates around the globe today offer proof of that.
It was the right time, the right place and the right reason,Mr.
Skelton told Every Day Catholic of his decision to become an Oblate. To
me, its about seriously seeking God. I wanted to offer myself to God in a deeper
way. The Benedictine Rule offers a way to live the gospel to the fullest, said
the professional church musician. It also offers him a way to imbibe the Benedictine
tradition at Saint Meinradsespecially the monks prayer and chant.
As an Oblate, Mr. Skelton has pledged to keep God at the center of his
being. Bolstered by daily prayer, the writings from the Beneditine Rule, Scripture
and the sacraments (duties all Oblates pledge to follow) he seeks to live his ordinary
life with extraordinary love.
Having a pope who chose the name Benedict tells Mr. Skelton what he already
knew: The monastic tradition founded by St. Benedict long ago offers a fruitful path
for 21st-century Christians to follow.