Category Archives: baptism

My baptismal day

“Living my baptism is letting go of that narrow and boring little story [of my  private life] so that I can flourish with my brothers and sisters in the spacious love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
-Timothy Radcliffe, OP, Taking the Plunge,  p. 166

Pope Francis has asked us to remember the date of our baptism. Even before his request, I knew that I was baptized two weeks after my birthday, on June 15, 1947.

A few years ago I came across these photos of the day of my baptism.

In the arms of Fr. Peter Vandergeist who baptized me.
With my godparents, Aunt Sis Rechner and Uncle George Barrar
My parents John and Eleanor Donaghy
With my grandmothers, Mom-mom (Regina) Barrar and Nana (Elizabeth) Donaghy

I give thanks to God for my baptism – for my biological family and for the family of faith.

Later today I will renew my baptismal vows.

Baptized into the Body of Christ open to the world

Seventy years ago today I was baptized, becoming a member of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Someone took pictures which I have scanned as a memory of this important event in my life.


Mom and Dad and me

What I find interesting is that both my grandmothers were there – and my grandmother Donaghy, Nana, was not Catholic (neither was my father at the time of my baptism.)


Mom-mom Barrar and Nana Donaghy – and me

I feel blessed to have been baptized but I also feel blessed for where I was baptized, in Saint Raphael’s parish in the Meadows, in West Philadelphia.

On the day of my father’s burial I found out a lot of this neighborhood where my parents grew up. I was sitting with my aunt Mary (whose husband, uncle George) had been my godfather) and my cousin Mary, looking at some photos.


Godparents, Aunt Sis Rechner and Uncle George Barrar

Aunt Mary told me that Catholics, Protestants, Jews, blacks, and whites all lived in the neighborhood. She also told me how there were basketball games in the parish gym where all these played together.

I often have wondered why my experience of the world has been so open and my parents without prejudice. They grew up living with those who were different from themselves. Their faith in God moved them to embrace the world.

For this I am grateful.

Baptism and the Father of compassion

God so loved the world…
John 3: 16

 The Lord – compassionate and gracious…
Exodus 34: 6

 A few months ago, Pope Francis asked people if they knew the day of their baptism.

Today is the anniversary of my baptism, on June 15, 1947, in Saint Rafael’s Church in the Meadows in Philadelphia.

I don’t remember the day, obviously, but a few years ago I found and scanned several photos of that day.

Dad, Mom and me - baptism day

Dad, Mom and me – baptism day

That was the day that I was baptized in the name of the Trinity – experiencing the love and compassion of God in a special way.

The church at St. Raphael’s was on the first floor of a building which, if I’m not wrong, had a gym in the basement, and classrooms on the second floor. It has been torn down; the area is now the site of multiple airport hotels.

But, on the day my dad was buried, I found out something about the neighborhood of the Meadows that makes me proud to have been baptized there.

Catholics and Protestants and black Pentecostals, Christians and Jews, blacks and whites lived side by side in the Meadows. In the Catholic church’s gym there were basketball games that included Protestants and Catholics. My aunt would go to the local synagogue and turn off the lights after the Friday Sabbath prayer. My father would go to turn off the lights on Friday night for Jewish neighbors.

And this was the 1930s in Philadelphia.

So today I am grateful for being born in a community where people of different races and religions lived in a bit of harmony, being baptized into a Church that calls us to embrace all with the love of the God who loves the world so much that he sent his Son, and raised in a family by parents who sought to live a love that embraces others.

So is the love of God – Father and Mother to us – revealed to me on this Father’s Day.


The spirit that moves us

José Antonio Pagola, reflecting on today’s Gospel in Following in the Footsteps of Jesus, asks a important question: “What is the ‘spirit’ that animates us today as followers of Jesus?”

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. When he went down into the Jordan River, the Spirit came upon Jesus and the Father affirmed Him as His beloved Son.

Ravenna baptistry

Ravenna baptistry

Then Jesus went up out of the river and proceeded to live his mission.

As today’s first reading, Isaiah 42: 1-7, notes: he was called for the victory of justice.

We, as followers of this Jesus, are also “called to the victory of justice.”

This justice – also translated as righteousness – is not simply a clamoring for rights in the streets, making a lot of noise. It is a call for a right relationship with God and with all people – and, I’d add, with all creation. It is both holiness and social justice, loving God and neighbor.

What is the spirit that moves us in our lives? Is it the spirit of demanding my rights, shouting out against others who “sin,” proclaiming a triumphal church?

Or is it the spirit of solidarity with the poor of the earth? Is it like the solidarity of God who became flesh in Jesus?

Yes, we are called to the victory of justice, but in a way that loves and respects others, not breaking the bruised reed, and that goes about “doing good,” that announces the Good News of peace, as Peter told Cornelius in Acts 10: 34-38.

Is this Spirit of Love, Peace, Justice, and doing good what animates us?

That’s a good question for the beginning of what the Church calls “ordinary time.”


Recognizing who we are

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Central to Luke’s account is the voice of God heard by Jesus “You are my beloved son.” (Luke 3: 22)

Sunday mornings I often read several commentaries on the readings, including El Anuncio de la Esperanza by Segundo Galilea and Arturo Paoli. In today’s reflection, they note that this phrase suggests that “the Father loves his Son Jesus above everything else and through Him loves humans and the world. God the Father loves each one of us in the measure that he sees us in His Son, in how we are incorporated into Jesus.”

This could be read in a way that excludes others, but I think the authors mean that we – as brothers and sisters of Jesus, God made flesh – can recognize our dignity and the love God has for us.

We are incorporated into the Body of Christ.

What dignity, what grace, what love.

What a gift – if we remember and recognize who we really are – children of God and sisters and brothers in Christ, God who loves us enough to become flesh.