At the baptism,
from left: Antoinette Marracq, Noelle Kitenko, Anne Buckley, Bishop Barber, John Paul Kitenko, Joshua Kitenko, Theodore Cordano and Kim Cordano.
Baptism — bestowing dignity on a human being
Michael C. Barber, SJ
What was the highlight of your Christmas this year? Being together with your family? Attending a particularly beautiful Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Mass? Watching young children open their gifts from Santa?
For me, it was the opportunity to bestow Divinity on a mere human being.
Noelle and Josh Kitenko, both lieutenants in the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in Alameda, brought me their firstborn son, John Paul Joshua, for baptism in the Catholic Church. I knew Josh as he was the commanding officer of the USS Tern, one of the cutters patrolling San Francisco Bay. I had delivered the invocation at his change-of-command ceremony.
When I baptized their son, who was only 19 days old, the child cried and cried. The Irish say that's good luck. But there's much more than good luck at work here. The opening prayer for the Mass for Christmas Mass puts it well:
"O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature, and still more wonderfully restored it, grant, we pray, that we may share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity."
This prayer comes from the writings of St. Athanasius who taught: "By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. ... For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized."
That's why Pope Francis, and all of us Catholics, give so much respect to human life.
I baptized the baby on the morning of Christmas Eve.
Later that afternoon, baby John Paul Joshua starred in his first stage role as "The Baby Jesus" in a parish Christmas pageant in South San Francisco. (His mother and father played Mary and Joseph.) I'd say that baby is off to a great start in life.
There was lots of commotion in the media about Pope Francis' address to the Roman Curia a few days before Christmas. It received attention because in place of the usual "Merry Christmas" (and gifts of panettone and Asti Spumante) the Holy Father noted 15 "spiritual illnesses" needing healing in the culture of the Curia. The part of the talk that most impressed me, and that I'd like to share with you, is the quotation of a prayer from St. Thomas More. (It's buried in footnote 14.)
The Pope said he's prayed it every day for years. I love this prayer. As one of my New Year's resolutions, I thought I should start saying it myself. May it inspire you for 2015!
"Lord, give me a good digestion and also something to digest. Give me health of body and the good humor necessary to maintain it. Give me, Lord, a simple soul that is able to make a treasure of all that is good and is not astonished in view of evil but rather always finds the way to put things back in place. Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumbling, sighs, laments, and do not permit me to trouble myself with that very cumbersome thing called "I." Give me, Lord, a sense of good humor. Grant me the grace to understand a joke, to discover in life a bit of joy and make others part of it. Amen."
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