Monthly Archives: November 2014

Loose Ends

Crucifix 5

Once again, for the 5th time, I turned toward the Catholic Church.  I knew the RCIA “drill” better than most Catholics and not a few priests…having attempted to go through it four times already.

Newly baptized, I had to think through the entire RCIA process again.  My journey into the Catholic Church had become so convoluted through its rules that had upended my desire to be baptized.RCIA Logo

For a long six months, since my husband and I had agreed that I would enter the Catholic Church, RCIA had been defined by its restrictions that prevented my baptism.  I had knocked on every door*…Fr. Ron, Deacon Dave, Fr. Kevin…pleading my case to get baptized and then to complete the RCIA program.  What the Catholics were not willing to do, the Protestants were.  And they did.

Baptism had required six months of my attention.  That left me six months more for the RCIA class.  While I still hated the delay, it was easier than trying to find a way to enter the church before next year at Easter.

There were just a few loose ends to attend to.

TelephoneAfter the trip to Los Angeles for my baptism, Fr. Kevin had surprised me with a telephone call.  Unbeknownst to me, he had decided to reach out to a church expert on canon law to see how to manage the baptism question raised by my marriage.  Tactfully, he asked what the canon lawyer needed to know.  Were my husband and I still having sex?  I forgave Father.  He was caught in the same legalism that entangled me.  And I answered his question.

Once again Fr. Kevin asked if my husband would consent to being married in the Catholic Church…a small private ceremony.  I agreed to ask.  When I knew the answer, I promised to call Father back.  Before hanging up, I had be honest with him.  I let him know what had transpired since our first meeting.  I had been baptized.Baptism 2

Fr. Kevin’s voice registered quiet surprise.  He asked the facts of the baptism, confirming that it was recognized as legitimate by the Catholic Church.  Punctuating the reality, he said, “So you are a baptized Protestant.”  I assented and said, again, that I would get back to him.

Even after being happily married for forty years, asking the “M” question is not something you just blurt out to your husband in the middle of shopping for groceries or during the commercial break of the Monday Night Football game.

I waited patiently for an opportune time, I asked, and I got the answer I had expected.  He Wedding Ringsdidn’t have to explain.  We were already married.  He had never practiced the Catholic faith.  He didn’t consider himself Catholic, infant baptism to the contrary.  And he didn’t feel compelled to perform a Catholic ceremony.

I called Fr. Kevin’s office and left a message with his secretary.  Months ago, he had suggested I might be able to begin RCIA and enter the church in December, before next Easter.  Was that still possible?  Days passed.  I left a voice message on his phone, just in case the earlier message had been lost.  Days were turning into weeks.

Clearly, my baptism had nullified his offer.  And without a Catholic marriage, I still didn’t know where that left me.  But I needed closure.  If Father couldn’t bow out gracefully and honestly, I would take care of it.

——– Message ——–
Writer Ink Well ScrollFrom: JANE JIMENEZ
Date: Friday, October 10, 2014

Good evening, Father Kevin,

As you suggested I did get a chance to discuss my husband’s willingness to renew our marriage vows in the Catholic church.  He is not favorable to this idea, and I am not going to press it any further.  It will only exacerbate his prejudices.

I left you a phone message two weeks ago.  I called and am writing here only to convey the above.  If you have lost interest in or do not have the ability to deal with my situation from this point forward, I completely understand.  Your inquiry with Church canon authorities was generous, and I appreciate that effort.  Unless I hear otherwise, I will operate under the assumption that the matter is closed.

Sincerely, Jane Jimenez

Scroll Divide Horizontal 2


That was the last loose end.  Now that baptism was off the table, I didn’t have to concern myself with finding a priest willing to “break the RCIA rules.”  I would enroll and take the classes for the next six months.  Finally…then…I would become Catholic.Praying People Church

Wanting to study with the people I would worship with, I carefully considered the RCIA program to attend. Two parishes were equal distance from my house.

At one parish, I thought back to a mass held in a school gymnasium, for their new School Gymparish in formation.  The priests and lay members did an amazing job of turning the gym into a church in every respect.  At the conclusion of mass, the deacon came to the podium with announcements.  Smiling enthusiastically, he called out to the congregation, “Well, we all know what the most important thing happening today is, don’t we?”  I was stumped.  I thought we had just experienced the most important thing of the day.  He Soccer Ballcorrected me as he raised his arms in excitement and proclaimed to everyone, “Soccer!”

I knew his heart was in the right place.  But his body seemed to be in the Eucharist Waferwrong place…a few feet from the altar where Christ had been celebrated less than ten minutes ago.  It seemed an unfortunate way of ending mass…like wrapping up a wedding reception by toasting the winners of the Super Bowl.

At the other parish, their recent mass had been the most reverent of any I had ever seen.  I knew where I wanted to be.

I’m nearing home, I told myself.  Finally.  What could go wrong?  I couldn’t think of a thing.

*All names have been changed.


 NEXT:  Fr. Walter, RCIA v.5

RETURN to the COMING HOME Contents.

 Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.


The Halo Effect

Halo Effect Person


Even months later, I am still living inside the halo effect of my baptism.

Raising out of the baptismal water that night in Los Angeles, I could literally feel the close presence of Christ securely enfolding me, invisible but palpable.  Vic and I took our time walking back to the van.  I couldn’t talk, except to say, “I’m so happy.”  Halo Effect Heaven

for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  [Heb 13:5]

The joy I felt was unexpected.  I had struggled for so many months to impress Catholic priests of the deep hunger I had for baptism.  That was all I could think of…the hunger…and the anxiety of not knowing how much longer this hunger would continue.

Baptism PoolEven as I had finally found a path to the baptismal font, my emotions on the drive to California had been a mixture of relief in finally “getting on with it” and anxiety about the possibility of being let down once again.  Maybe it wasn’t really that easy…that I would have to be a California resident…that I would have to have a sponsor…that I would have to prove I had attended their church for two months.  Maybe “after every service” did not include “this service” on Saturday night.  Maybe the pastor had gotten sick and had put a sign near the pool…Closed.  In my meetings with the priests, I was so used to baptism being problematic that I couldn’t believe it would be that easy.

Jason and Fr. Kevin had each tried to carry me with anticipation through eight months up to the Easter Vigil Baptism Pool GalileeMass, mentioning the wonderful ceremony of baptism.  But ever since that night in Los Angeles, I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than my own baptism, confirming my new life with Christ.

Even as I write, at this very moment and every day of the year, people from around the world are being baptized in Galilee at the Yardenit Baptismal Site on the Jordan River.  Their joy in fulfillment of the promise of Christ is proclaimed by the gospel verse Mark 1:9-11, engraved on the nearby Wall of New Life in more than 80 languages and dialects.  Baptism on the Jordan River would also be an amazing experience.  But it doesn’t top my baptism.

Baptism Pool NaturalAt Yardenit on the Jordan…and on every continent of the earth…baptisms have taken place for 2000 years every day of the year…on Easter…and on the other 364 days of the calendar.  I don’t doubt for a minute that the baptism at  Easter Vigil Mass is beautiful and joy-filled.  I truly understand the person who anticipates this joy for eight months because the anticipation satisfies their longing.  Halo Effect Cloud

But the joy of baptism is not constrained nor is it defined by place or  liturgical customs.  The joy of baptism comes as the overflow of love proclaimed between Christ and Christian.  It is the darkness overtaken by Light.  It is the radiance that is left behind in a halo of Love that follows us on earth until we arrive home with Christ.

Halo Effect GoldWhile Deacon Dave was terribly concerned about my being baptized a second time, I still wonder at his apparent lack of concern at my being baptized at all.  The catechism assures me that having the intent to get baptized would save me at death, if I should die before I wake.  That being true, if I died today, the last 65 days of my life lived on earth as a baptized Christian have been heaven on earth.  I would not change a thing!

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  [Rom 8:38-39]


NEXT:  Loose Ends


Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

My Baptism

The box of food and the ice chest were the last items packed into the van.  Vic lowered the tailgate door, came around to the front seat, and started the engine.  We were off to Traffic Trip LACalifornia…and my baptism.

In the two weeks leading up to our trip, in God’s mysterious ways, my own passion for getting baptized had merged with Vic’s separate plans for driving to Los Angeles.  He had had his trip on the map for months, and I had been a happy camper looking forward to a little quiet time alone at home.

In the intervening weeks…realizing that my baptism was not on the Catholic calendar for 2014, I accepted the reality that I would have to “look outside the box.”  As “luck” would have it, EWTN that month had featured a news story about a major protestant pastor and his Los Angeleschurch that was in dialogue with representatives from the Vatican.  The Vatican reps were talking with the pastor about evangelizing the world at large.  He was succeeding.  Apparently, the Vatican reps were interested in how and why.  I went to the Internet.

On the the pastor’s website, I clicked from one page to the next, checking out their Christian doctrine, their mission work around the world, and their various church locations and service times in the Los Angeles area.  One sentence jumped out at me…out of all the details on the web page…baptisms after every service.

Baptismal FontBaptism?  Baptisms!  After every service!!

Ditching all desire to be alone at home while Vic was traveling the expanse of California, I pinned him down at dinner that night.  “Would you be willing to adjust your travel plans so that I could go with you and get baptized in Los Angeles.”  He didn’t hesitate.  “Sure.”

Weeks later, leaving Phoenix for Los Angeles , my anticipation was cautious, knowing that sometimes things are not what they seem.  The website said they had everything needed for baptism.  Everything?  Just in case, I packed some “water clothes” in a tote bag.  In eight hours, Vic and I would be in Los Angeles.  And I would be baptized.  Could I really get excited?  Was it really true?

Driving to Los Angeles, checking in at our hotel, and finding the church in time for their Saturday evening service, all went off without a hitch.  The campus of the church, the size of a small city, offered every amenity and served every possible need of their congregation and visitors.  Baptism 1

The worship service was a good protestant blend of music and message.  As the service came to a close, they made mention of baptisms performed to the right and to the left of the main stage, outside the doors.  If you were not prepared for the announcement, it would have been easy to miss.  I didn’t miss it.

True to their promise on the Internet…they did have everything needed for baptism.  In a private changing room, I put on my own pants and their baptismal t-shirt.  Stepping out, I met the pastor and his assistants who helped with the details of recording the moment.  Across the pool’s water, I smiled and waved at Vic seated next to the photographer.  It finally sank in.

Baptism 2Yes, I was going to be baptized…here…and now.  No conspiratorial whispers to take it all back if I had forgotten a forgettable baptism fifty years ago.  I would be baptized with joy and celebration…complete with pictures that I could hold onto, reliving this wonderful day…until the day I died.Baptism 4

No longer did it matter to me.  Protestant or Catholic, I was baptized Christian.  I belonged to Christ…and His were the wings under which I would shelter myself in the coming storms.

Let me abide in your tent forever,
    find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.  [Psalm 61:4-5]



NEXT:  The Halo Effect


Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

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.