by Fr. Timothy Armbruster, C.PP.S., Regional Vocation Director
“Are you baptized or were you baptized?” Although this might just seem to be a play on words, it does make a difference. I had the opportunity to preach and share my story at St. Francis Xavier Parish, St. Joseph, Missouri. We had just celebrated the Baptism of the Lord and so I followed with the theme of water and baptism.
Several summers ago, Debbie Bolin, Campus Minister at Sacred Heart School, Sedalia and several youth attended NDVision at Notre Dame with me. It is a week-long summer camp with separate sessions for youth and youth ministers. At one of our sessions, a deacon shared his story. His ministry included working with families preparing for baptism. One family who was new to the parish also had a newborn to be baptized. After they had completed the paperwork, they went into the church. The deacon was walking them through the rite. As they approached the baptismal font, the father said, “I want to be baptized!” The deacon tried to explain to him that a person is only baptized once. Back and forth they went until suddenly the man plunged his hands into the water, scooped it up, and drenched himself. As the water dripped from his head, he said, “Now I AM baptized!”
I have told that story several times and each time I plunge my hands into the water and drench myself. As the water drips from my head, I ask the question, “Are you baptized or were you baptized?” If we say, “We were baptized,” then it is just a one time event recorded on the calendar. If we say, “We are baptized,” then we recognize that call each and every day. It is answering that call of baptism in service to others that leads us to seek our vocation in life.
I’ve shared the story at various retreats I have led. The look on people’s faces is sometimes priceless. As baptized people, we are called to share God’s word and draw others closer to Christ. What am I doing in my life to share God’s word? What am I doing to draw others closer to God? Is God calling me to something more in my life? It is in asking and answering that question that we begin to realize our vocation in life. As ones who have answered that call in our life, are we seeking and encouraging others to discern that same call in their lives?
Young people who were once involved in church and ministry have been asked why they didn’t consider religious life as a vocation. Their response is usually: “No one ever asked me. No one ever asked me to consider it.” We talk about vocations and pray for an increase, but do we ever point blank ask or say to anyone, “I think you would make a good priest. Would you consider it?”
Once as I celebrated a baptism, the older brother to the child being baptized was sitting on the end of the pew. I noticed he kept staring at the water and looking up at his dad. So I asked him, “What else do we do with water?” Almost on cue he exclaimed, “We splash in it!” “Are you sure?” “Yes!” And so I took a big hand of water and I splashed him. He got a big grin on his face and then the tears starting flowing. What I didn’t know was that before I walked into the church he had been splashing in the water and had gotten a spanking for it. He wasn’t sure if he was in trouble again.
Water, a simple gift, a gift that sometimes we might even take for granted, gets used in so many different ways: we splash in it, we play in it, we drink it to refresh our bodies, we wash in it. Maybe today we need a good splash in it to remind ourselves of our baptismal promises. Whenever we dip our hand in the holy water and make the sign of the cross, might we ask ourselves, “What is God calling me to today?”