Dwayne had given me his personal number and invited me to call as soon as I could. I did.
As 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.”
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.
I 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 Easter. 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 baptizing 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. Baptized…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.”
“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.
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
The die was cast. I still needed to come up with a plan. But I would be baptized.
NEXT: Catholic Baptism
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