Category Archives: Conversion – Coming Home

Catholic Baptism

Praying Hands Gold

It’s impossible, after twenty years of reading the Bible and attending church, not to come to a full understanding of and a clear idea of the importance of baptism for the Christian.  Only a simple listing of a few scriptures will inform a person who is not certain or has never known Christian theology.

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. [Mark 1:4]Baptism Jesus

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. [Mat 3:13]

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened.  [Luke 3:2]

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.   [Rom 6:4]

The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. [Mark 16:16]

But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. [Acts 8:12]

As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”…He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.  [Acts 8:36, 38]

…for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard.  And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.  [Acts 22:15-16]

In all of my conversations with priests and deacons, I could understand their desire to Church Steeplepreserve their familiar and beloved path to baptism at the Easter Vigil Mass.  What stumped me was their inability to identify with my deep longing as a Christian to be baptized…now…after twenty years…at the age of 63.

As if that were not enough to confound me, I wanted to literally go all the way up to the Pope to have him explain why a few drops of the water on the head of a baby…by virtue of an accident of birth to parents who were compelled by Catholic custom to baptize the baby…why this baptism trumped baptizing a true believer.

Yes, I could quote all the sacramental theological underpinnings of this conundrum.  But one Eucharist Waferof the things about Christ as he taught us was that he never contradicted himself; he always made sense, even when the sense was mysterious to the human mind.  I still have to accept on faith that a piece of bread is the body of Christ.  It is a mystery, but it makes sense.

Yes, I could understand the Catholic “get out of jail free card” for catechumens who might die before Easter baptism.  But baptism wasn’t intended for the dead.  It is a sacrament given to the living.  Was that not included in the Catholic Catechism?  I pulled the book off my shelf.

Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”  [CCC 1213]Baptism Logo Dove

This sacrament is also called “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one “can enter the kingdom of God.”  [CCC 1215]

Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans. Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi. and the narrative continues, the jailer “was baptized at once, with all his family.”  [CCC 1226]

CCCIn the Catechism of the Catholic Church, counting all the references to and justifications for baptism, these references will fill 11 pages with 4,841 words…baptism, says the Catechism, is the essential union of the Christian with Christ.  As if the Bible were not clear enough, the Catechism cleared up any possible doubt.

The catechetical “get-out-of-jail-free” card could truly be written on a Monopoly card…all 35 words:

For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. [CCC 1259]

I could understand having an escape clause.  But what about those who do not want to escape life on earth absent the real, actual, sanctifying joy of baptism?  What about those who want the experience of waking each day, raising up in bed, and remembering the wonderful glorious day when they rose out of baptismal waters into the arms of Christ?  Psalm 23

If the priest, the deacons and the Pope could not understand, in the depths of my heart, I knew Christ would.

And if not, I knew I would be forgiven.


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


NEXT:  My Baptism


Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Fr. Kevin – RCIA v.4

Dwayne had given me his personal number and invited me to call as soon as I could. I did.

Telephone Antique TallAs the story of my experiences with RCIA had grown, the struggle to reduce them to a reasonable summation became more difficult. I gave him my best synopsis and arrived at the crux of my problem. And just as I began the sentence, “I want…I want…,” deep from the well within me, tears rose and overflowed.   “Dwayne, I’m sorry. It’s just that this has become so emotional.” His kindness settled me. “I can do the RCIA,” I told him, “the reading and the rest, I have no problem with any of it. But I want to be baptized. I want to be baptized now…not next year.”

In his kindness, Dwayne offered more than a sympathetic ear. He gave me the names of two priests and a friend, any one of them who would be able to talk with me. Fr. Kevin’s name headed the list. Church Simple

As I looked forward to next week and my appointment with Fr. Kevin, I pondered Dwayne’s words. Was this just a matter of my prideful insistence to exempt myself from RCIA? Did I think I was above RCIA? Pride is insidious by its very nature. It tempts us to deny pride, our denial being the very evidence itself of pride.

Clock Tic TocI had to admit that I had low expectations for RCIA based on my first exposure. But I knew I could make it through the class. I could, and I would. The real issue was baptism. I didn’t want to stand on the banks of the Jordan for eight months more. Here it was, now early September, and I had been waiting for baptism since April.

My appointment with Fr. Kevin soon arrived, and the familiar pattern played out…introductions, the thank-you-for-meeting-with-me, the walk down the hallway to the office, and the what-can-I-do-for-you. Once again, I condensed my life and religious history into ten minutes, ending with my request. Yes, I would truly want to enter the Church before next Baptism Logo DoveEaster. But if I could have only one part of it…baptism…I want to be baptized.

Fr. Kevin was generous in listening and thinking. He acknowledged the options open to a priest. Baptisms could be done privately. But baptism at Easter was special. At the Easter Vigil Mass, I would regret not having waited.

I was not deterred. I admitted to him that I had an idea floating in the back of my mind. If I could not be baptized into the Catholic Church, I could easily be baptized into the protestant church. Protestants were all about baptizing. If I had begun my quest for baptism at my Lutheran church, I would have been baptized five months ago. I didn’t like the idea. I knew I could not bring myself to “scam the system” of my Lutheran family, only to leave them for the Catholic Church.

Fr. Kevin, giving all matters thoughtful consideration, offered me a kind option. “We are beginning RCIA next week. If you come and truly participate in the classes, I would consider Nativity Lightsbaptizing and confirming you in December before Christmas. What do you think?”

I considered and agreed that I could do that. In the back of my mind, though, I was hedging my bets. I had already been stung once. “Considering” an early baptism was not the same thing as “performing” an early baptism. What if December rolled around and Fr. Kevin, like Fr. Ron before him, decided he had changed his mind…pushing baptism back to Easter? I had lost two months with Fr. Ron. What was the likelihood I would lose another three months?

Fr. Kevin seemed to read my mind. “If you get serious about being baptized in your own church before then, please come and see me.”

With a tentative plan for RCIA in the works, Fr. Kevin took the focus off my particular request and asked about my husband. I filled in the details. “No, he won’t become Catholic…ever. Yes, he is baptized. He’s always believed in God, and he is happy as a protestant. Baptism InfantBaptized…yes…as a baby in the Catholic Church. But he’s never been Catholic. They never attended the Catholic Church.”

Now it was my turn to read Fr. Kevin’s face. I knew what was coming. “But he is Catholic. That means you have to be married in the church. I would only be willing to do that if you both came to meet me and take the marriage preparation.”

Wedding CoupleMy face told him everything.

“Well, he would at least have to come and meet with me,” Fr. Kevin said, making a quick adjustment. “As Catholics, you both would have to have a sacramental marriage. We can do a very simple private ceremony. Will he be willing to do that?”

I didn’t really know. “I can ask him. I doubt he will want to, but I can ask. I will not press him. It’s his decision.”

Leaving Fr. Kevin’s office, a grey pall had been cast over any hopes I had for December. He, too, seemed disturbed by the messy mixture of marriage, baptism and RCIA. Passing down the hallway, my frustration erupted in an audible mumble. “I wish someone would ask me about the new evangelization.” It was certainly not a comment to endear me to Fr. Kevin.

Desert NotecardBy the time I drove home and walked into the house, I knew what needed to be done. I pulled a beautiful Arizona note card out of my collection and sat down at the kitchen table.

Dear Fr. Kevin, Thank you so much for taking the time to meet me today. I really appreciate your consideration of my request and your generous offer for December. After careful thought, I cannot compel my husband to do something that is only meaningful to Christ when it is offered freely as a gift. For that reason, it appears we are at an impasse. Again, I thank you for your kindness and pray that your ministry will continue to be blessed. Sincerely, Jane Jimenez Baptismal Font

The die was cast. I still needed to come up with a plan. But I would be baptized.



NEXT:  Catholic Baptism


Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.


Noahs Cats


While waiting for the Ark to pick me up, I resorted to the only thing I knew would save me.  I said a prayer.

Once inside the ark, saved from the flood, my prayers flowed without ceasing.  I prayed for comfort…for shelter…for wisdom…and most especially…for what to do when the rains stopped and the water subsided.

PSALM 16: 5-11

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
    my body also rests secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol,
    or let your faithful one see the Pit.

11 You show me the path of life.
    In your presence there is fullness of joy;
    in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Rainbow Desert


Thankfully, on the other side of the rainbow, my spirit revived.  I did my best to focus on what I could possibly do to get baptized before the onset of the next cataclysmic flood.

It would have been easier if I had had more Catholic family and friends.  What Fr. Ron and Deacon Dave didn’t seem to appreciate was the miracle of all miracles…that I had even come to meet God and encounter his Son Jesus Christ.

I racked my brain for one…just one…person who might understand my plight…a person Hourglasswho loved me…and loved the Catholic Church.  And I thought.  And thought.  I knew people who loved me.  And I knew people who loved the Catholic Church.  I knew plenty of people who loved the Christian Church (of the NOT Catholic variety).  And I knew people who used to love the Catholic Church.  But I did not know one person who loved me and loved the Catholic Church together…in total…without qualifications and exceptions.

Thus, I had to reach for someone else.  Of all the Catholic people I knew, the one person who might care for my situation was a man I had not seen in more than ten years.  We had Rainbow Desert 2met in our mutual work for pro-life issues, and he had once lived in Gilbert, a neighboring city.  He was easy to find on the Internet.  He knew the Catholic mission of evangelization backwards and forwards.

Maybe Dwayne would be my rainbow.  I sent him an e-mail.  “Help!”  Trying to confine myself to the pertinent details, I kept the e-mail simple.

“Hi. Dwayne.  We knew each other ten years ago…in the pro-life world.  Help!  I am trying to enter the Catholic Church.  Help!  I don’t know any other Catholics, so I hope you understand why I am reaching out to you.  Help!  If you can, I would really appreciate being able to talk with you.  Help!”

And with Dwayne’s characteristic generosity, he called me immediately.


NEXT:  Fr. Kevin – RCIA v.4


Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Forecast – Winds and Rain

Desert Lightning


Driving home from my meeting with Deacon Dave, my mind would not function.

I had ignored the signs of a coming storm on the desert.  And it was here.

On the good side of RCIA v.3, Deacon Dave was able to move my investigative process forward and dispatch me in less than 30 minutes.  I had my answer.  “No.”  By his count, baptism was eight months way…or longer…depending on the irregularities of my 40-year marriage.  Church Snow

Apparently, he thought to console me by telling me it could be worse.  Centuries earlier, those seeking entrance into the Catholic Church were forced to kneel for hours in the snow outside closed church doors.  But I thought this argument little better than trying to convince a child to eat Brussels sprouts because other children had to eat alfalfa.  Does the Church really want to convert people by convincing them that it is better than being absolutely awful?

Not to mention that history can always be pushed to any era desired…like the sermon of Peter to the 3,000…converted and baptized after hearing him preach one time.  But that had nothing to do with me here, today…on the bank of the Jordan…minus John the Baptist.Desert Lightning Blue

At home from the church, as the wind and rain kicked up outside, I turned on the computer to check my e-mail.

I had returned home with my answer from Deacon Dave.  But, still two weeks after my conversation with Jason and my e-mail to Fr. Ron, I had not received any reply.  No less than the Deacon’s abrupt “No,” the silence of Fr. Ron and Jason clearly was their answer.  It was time to put this to rest.

Writer Ink Well ScrollFrom: JANE JIMENEZ
Date: August 21, 2014

Dear Fr. Ron and Jason,

Thank you for meeting with me last month.  I write to let you know I am releasing you from my request.  I still plan to enter the RC church, but as I told Fr. Ron in July, it has never been my desire to break down the door of the church to “get in.”  The span of time since our meeting indicates to me that my request is not one that fits the expectations of your parish.  I appreciate your time with me and wish you both the best.
Sincerely,  Jane Jimenez

—– Message ——–
Typewriter HeartTo: Jane Jimenez
Date: August 21, 2014

I respect that.  I did my best to be a bridge, but in the end it’s not my decision. I’m under the impression that more than one place has encouraged you to go through RCIA.  If that’s the case, maybe that’s the Lord inviting you to take a step in faith.  If that’s not the case, then it’s moot and I apologize for bringing it up.  God bless.

Writer Ink Well ScrollTo:  Jason
Date: August 21, 2014

Your parish is the second after my home parish.

Desert Storm Clouds


What next?

Well…when it rains…it pours.


 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark…
Genesis 7:11-13, New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)




Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Deacon Dave – RCIA v.3

Desert Sunset 5

Saguaro CactusAfter sending off my e-mail to Fr. Ron, a deep quiet descended.  More than quiet…a settling of the air around me, a deep atmospheric calm.

It gave me time to think as I waited to hear back from Fr. Ron.  Jason had pointed out to me the camaraderie of sharing RCIA with other class members.  But realistically, their parish was too far from my home, and any friendships I might develop would be short-lived when I eventually returned to and settled into regular life in my home parish.

To be fair, I had never fully pursued my quest for baptism with my home parish priest.  I had accepted a quick answer from the church secretary over the telephone.  Maybe, in fact, they would actually consider my request.  It wouldn’t hurt to ask.  Deacon Dave, in charge of RCIA for the coming year at my home parish, made room for me on his schedule in short order.

Desert Sunset 4A few nights later, walking to the church door for our appointment, a slight breeze carried dried pink bougainvillea flowers under my feet.  Looking to the sky, I noted a dusty pink hue low on the southern horizon.  Across the parking lot a miniature twister of dust played over the ground under a mesquite tree.  I pulled open the door and left the breeze and dust behind me.

Deacon Dave was expecting me.  Relaxed and cheerful, he guided me to his small office.  I sat in a chair facing his desk and waited from him to get situated.  He invited me to share the purpose of my visit, and as I began, he grabbed a yellow pad and pen.  Notepad

Not knowing how involved to get into my story, I started with two minutes about my attendance at mass over the past year and half.  I had even attended mass at the school where the new parish church was forming and saw Deacon serving with the priest.  He smiled.  Then he asked about my husband.

I gave a two-minute explanation of my husband’s family background and its impact on prejudicing him against Catholicism.  He asked how long we had been married and wrote a note on the yellow page.  Our conversation proceeded in this pattern for the next ten minutes.  I spoke for a minute or two…Deacon asked a question…and wrote a note.

ChecklistHe seemed to be satisfied that he knew the key points for us to cover.  Firstly, he asked me if I was  certain I had never been baptized.  “We absolutely cannot baptize a person twice.  But we have a way of handling this.  We would baptize you conditionally.”  And Deacon Dave showed me exactly how that looked…and sounded.  “I baptize you,” and then he lowered his head and voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “conditionally,” raising his head and finishing with an audible, “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  You would be the only one to know.”

Second, he wanted to know more about my husband’s history.  Was he baptized?  “Yes,” I answered.  “His parents baptized him as a baby.  Where?  In the Catholic Church.  But he’s never Baptism Infantpracticed the Catholic faith.  He’s not Catholic.  His dad was a very adamant atheist, and they never attended church.  Vic doesn’t have any interest in ever joining the Catholic Church.”  During the minute to explain this, Deacon Dave extended his short list of notes on the yellow tablet.

“You will have to be married in the church…yes…the Catholic Church.  Your husband is Catholic.  Are you sleeping together?  If you were younger…I tell young couples…you’re living in sin.  I tell them they need to sleep separately until their marriage is legitimized.”

I was clearly taking the Deacon into unexpected and unfamiliar territory.  Vic and I had been happily married to each other for forty years.  Even a law-abiding deacon recognized the awkward insanity of telling us we needed to use separate bedrooms.

“We can handle this situation,” he explained, “in a couple of ways.  You can get married in the Catholic Church.”  I was already shaking my head.  “You can have a very small, private renewal of your vows.”

“I can’t speak for him, but I seriously doubt that he…” I began.

“Well we do have another option where you alone…without your husband…”

“I could never do anything without telling my husband.”

“Oh, no…certainly….”  And whatever that option was, it was abandoned with no further explanation.

Baptismal Font“What about being baptized?” I asked.  “I am willing to study, to read, to attend RCIA.  But I want to be baptized.  I don’t want to spend the next eight months without being baptized.”

“No.  We can’t baptize you with your irregular marriage.  You’re really living in sin.”

I pressed forward, one more time, “Is there any way for me to proceed prior to the RCIA class and next Easter?”  He shook his head.  My face must have registered every emotion raging inside of me.  A minute passed.  I could think of lots of things to say.  I couldn’t think of anything worth saying.

He leaned forward and laughed.  “I’ve dealt with grown men who wanted to punch me out.”  And he laughed again.

I opened my mouth to speak.  And I thought better of it.  Another minute passed as I contemplated how to conclude our time together.  He waited for me, exuding that clear confidence that he could face anything I threw at him…yelling, screaming, complaining…and even punching.

I couldn’t remove myself from his office fast enough.  “I have no desire to denigrate your process.  Thanks for taking the time to meet with me.”

We walked to the lobby door, and for the sake of ending civilly, I shook his hand and said thank you.Praying Madonna Child

Outside, I let my emotions have their way.  My stomach was in knots…as if Deacon Dave had punched me.  Hot tears formed, and I walked slowly to the car.




Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.