February 18, 2024 Essay: Reflections Upon Baptism and Service
[This First Sunday of Lent, our Parish celebrates two Rites for 22 adults: the Rite of Sending (for those preparing for baptism) and the Call to Continuing Conversion (for our already baptized candidates). Then at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the afternoon, Cardinal Timothy Dolan welcomes the catechumens and accepts their desire to be baptized into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. This essay is written by Wayne Weddington, who was received into the Church in 2022.]
I have always felt that God has been with me, an always-present whisper of encouragement and guidance for as long as I can remember. After joining RCIA, God’s presence was confirmed to me through our readings from the Bible, our textbook, and other prayers that we prayed together. I did not always call the Word, God. I am not certain what I called God before this journey, but I knew God was there. Each week’s readings spoke to me, and the voice seemed familiar.
At one point during this RCIA journey to Christ, we were asked to reflect on what we desire from God’s Church. I said: “To affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ has always been, and forever is, my companion and Savior.”
In reading the Gospels, I came to love the tacit emphasis of what I call the “low barrier to entry.” God’s Kingdom is immanently accessible. ANYONE can enter, no matter where one has been or how lost or damaged one’s GPS may be. The principles of love for one another, forgiveness, redemption, humility—and the recognition that we are all imperfect—bring us closer to God. The joy of God’s love is available to anyone who seeks it. God’s love is still there even if one does not seek it (perhaps that “guiding whisper”).
I am particularly grateful and proud to have completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Ignatius Loyola. I felt I had been called. I was deeply grateful to hear about the experiences of others in our group. Finding Christ is such a personal journey; no one person has precisely the same calling or reason for living.
And yet, here we stood together, well-aligned on the path to God. It has been a gift to experience integration through self-examination in and through Christ the Word and the Holy Spirit. At the Easter Vigil, I could not wait to experience the baptismal water on my head. I let it run down my face. I was reluctant to wipe it away. Amen! Hallelujah! I rejoice.
Now today, I am thrilled to be a member of the Ministry of Hospitality and a Lector. It is a responsibility and a joy to ‘touch’ my fellow parishioners on their way to receiving the Eucharist at Mass. Some are burdened, others happy, some simply curious or sad, but we are all there, convened, to experience Christ and to offer our connection with Him and offer prayers for one another. The Hospitality Ministry deepens my connection to the Body of Christ, and the honor of being a Lector enables me to learn the Scripture in a tangible way. It is also a great responsibility and honor to participate in the worship of my fellow parishioners. The parish response to the Readings, in unison, “Thanks be to God,” always moves me.
I think of the Mass as a celebration . . . that Christ is among us and that the Holy Spirit lives in each and every one of us. I look forward to every Mass, the Scripture Readings, the Gospel, and homily as if they are rays of Light. If you see me smiling at Mass, it is because, well, I am happy. As we begin Lent and walk toward the Cross and Resurrection, I truly treasure this journey.
— Wayne P. Weddington III, Hospitality Minister and Lector