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Baptism and the Drama of Second Birth
After a few minutes’ conversation on my doorstep, a Mormon missionary asked if I was, by chance, a “born-again Christian?” “Well,” I replied, “I’m a born-again Catholic.” This idea of being “born again” made me reflect on the challenge of awakening cultural Catholics to the radical implications of the Sacrament of Baptism. Living in County Kerry—the tourist magnet of Ireland—I’ve seen the trouble American visitors take to research their family tree and locate their Irish roots. They trawl through parish registers to find out about the births, marriages, and deaths of their ancestors. (“Who are your people?” is a familiar question in this part of the country.) Perhaps we can help cradle Catholics to develop the same kind of curiosity about their spiritual roots; to find out what difference it makes, in practice, to bear their surname, not just of O’Donnell, O’Sullivan, or O’Shea but “of Christ.” Pope Francis, in one of his Wednesday catecheses, asked a set of questions that could form part of a parish or family catechesis on baptismal identity. “Is Baptism, for me, a fact of the past, relegated to a date…or is it a living reality, that pertains to my present, to every moment?” “Do you feel strong with the strength that Christ gave you by his death and his Resurrection? Or do you feel low, without strength?” “Baptism gives strength and it gives light. Do you feel enlightened, with that light that comes from Christ? Are you a man or woman of light? Or are you a dark person, without the light of Jesus?” (November 13, 2013) I would like to illustrate five points, based on this catechesis, which could help Catholic families to awaken to their baptismal identity and activate its power.