3 – Water of Live

Mail has been answered, the sick in hospital visited, appointments kept.

 Now it is late afternoon.

Unlike most of the year these, dog days of summer, phone and doorbell stay rather quiet.

 There is extra time to pray, to read, and yes, to write.

It rained a bit this afternoon.

One of those, warm, lazy rains, of mid-summer.


It makes up much of our bodies, even from the very beginning, in the womb.

In some form or other water is an essential element of physical life.

From the opening of Genesis to the flood and the ark, from the parting of the sea to water from the rock, from the battle between the true and the false, to the Lamb at the Jordan, from the miracle of Cana to the broken open Heart, water has its irreplaceable part as the living, flowing, river of His providence. { cf. Gn. 1;Gn.6-9;Ex.14:10-31;Ex.17:1-7;1Kg.18:21-40;Jn.1:29-43;Jn.2:1-11;Jn.19:31-37 }

Did I not just write that the phone has been quiet today?

It has taken near fifteen minutes to write these few lines, however, as a holy priest-writer once said when asked how he coped with all the interruptions: Interruptions? They are my life!

CHRIST casts His eyes upon us even before we are created in our mother’s womb.

When do we first cast eyes upon Him?

It is at the moment of our Baptism.

      The moment when water becomes sacrament of He who has first gazed upon us!

So many questions pose themselves here for the non-believer: about God, man, sacrament, about Baptism itself.

The temptation is to answer them in a way which frankly would drown you dear reader in ponderous theological paragraphs.

I am, be grateful to her, reminded of words from the Servant of God Catherine Doherty who pleaded with we priests to give people God and not theological punditry.

 So I pray here the answers sought will be found in the telling of a life created by God, sustained by Him, redeemed by Him, and how He does all that!

Given the fact I was baptized within a few days of my birth I naturally do not retain a normal conscious memory of the event, though undoubtedly my soul, being indelibly marked by the sacrament, sealed as one of Christ’s own by the Holy Spirit, has somewhere a memory of the event more vivid than I can possibly imagine.

In those days before the Second Vatican Council ritual was something cherished, not seen as some impediment to personal creativity.

Having been at the baptisms of my various brothers and sisters, and reviewing pre-Vatican II ritual books, I can piece together what would have occurred at my own baptism and touch on this importance of water become sacrament in the life of a human being.

The Baptism would have taken place over a marble font in the sacristy of the parish church, where I would have been carried in the arms of my Godfather. Often in those days the mother was not present as Baptism occurred within hours, certainly no more than a couple of days of birth.

The ritual would have unfolded mainly in Latin, the sacred language of over a millennia of the believing Church.

QUO NOMINE VOCARIS?, the priest would have asked: By what name are you called?

Naturally I could not answer being a mere baby and so the Godparents would have answered: MY name!

Sacred Scripture is filled with consoling words about the sacredness of name, the promise of redemption, the blessing of water { cf. Is.43:1,2; Jn.10:3 } and the Church Herself teaches clearly: “God calls each one by name. Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of           the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it. The name one receives is a name for eternity. In the kingdom, the mysterious and unique character of each person marked with God’s name will shine forth in splendour. “ To him who conquers….I will give a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it. “ [b]


What do you beg of the Church of God?

The solemn answer would be given in one word: FIDEM! FAITH!

FIDES, QUID TIBI PRAESTAT? Faith, what does that offer you?

The answer given this time was both a declaration of truth and a statement of hope: VITAM AETERNAM!


Having called me to live the Gospel and enter life by keeping the commandments of loving God with my whole heart, soul, mind and my neighbour as myself, the priest then leaned over my tiny body and breathed the sacred breeze of his Spirit filled breath, three times, over my face intoning: EXI AB EO IMMUNDE SPIRITUS, ET DA LOCUM SPIRITUI SANCTO PARACLITO!


Then the priest would have signed me on the forehead and over my heart with the Sign of the Cross that I might embrace all Divine teaching and live as God’s temple and blessed salt would have been placed upon my tongue to seal within my being the declaration of Christ Himself  that we His disciples are, and are to be, salt of the earth{ Mt.5:13 }.After other blessings, anointing, came the actual pouring of the baptismal water over my being and the declaration by name of my baptism in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In that instant I was transformed from a creature of God to a child of God, from another object in the created universe to a subject also, a true person!

At that precise moment there was no darkness within my being, I was filled with His light, with all that was needed to live a full, holy life, the life St. Paul so eloquently describes as an actual, a real re-birth, not to some mundane existence, but fullness of life in Christ and therefore no longer should be we looking to ‘the world’ for the meaning of life, the purpose of the very gift of existence, but beyond ourselves, indeed into the very heart of the Trinity until that extraordinary moment comes when the very truth of the ‘am’ of ‘I’ will be revealed in Him and with Him [Col.3:1-4}.

From the moment of my Baptism, until I was old enough to start school, that ideal of the Christian way of life pretty much remained in my being untainted by any of my own deliberate doing, for I was after all a mere toddler.

However, as is simply the reality of living life in the company of other human beings, as the years went by the events of family life, life lived in this world, affected me to varying degrees.

From very early on, certainly it was already a personal practice by the time I started school, internalizing things as a battle between what I knew to be true, and true as a matter of faith, and what I felt to be true, as a matter of experience, became ever more intense, ever more something I began to keep locked inside of myself, speaking about it to no one.

Possessed of an almost ferocious self-will when it came to being stubborn at the same time when it came to giving into fear or gratification it was as if I had no self-will at all.

What began as a battle within myself over the years would develop into a great struggle with, and eventually against, the very God whose sacramental child I had become.

St. John stresses the reality of belonging to the Holy Trinity within the starkness of life in a world which is darkened by another {1Jn.5:19}.

Decades ago when I was working in the financial heart of the country, immersed in the cult of greed, returning home on the subway late one night I was accosted by a ‘bible-thumper’ with the usual assumptive challenge: Have you been saved? Do you know Jesus brother?

Instantly my ego was engaged.

 I stupidly plunged right into the insane trap and frankly proved how little I knew Jesus by assaulting the young man’s religious innocence, assuring him that, as a Roman Catholic, not only was I saved big-time but that thanks to confession I could sin and sin and be saved and saved!

This horrified him no end.

He was literally, utterly horrified that anyone who has been saved could ever consent to sinning again. To him it was incomprehensible.

He, of course, was/is right.

It should not only be incomprehensible but unheard of that a Christian, once baptized, would ever willingly cast off Christ and choose sin.

But I was really terrible that night on the subway and would not leave it alone.

I pressed him, hassled him, about the current state of the world, our so-called Christian culture, the TV evangelists, the Catholic priests, the public Christians who committed terrible sins stressing it sure seemed to me rather common for the ‘saved’ to sin and sin and sin.

He fled the subway at the next stop.

I sat there in a puddle of my egotistical waste, though at the time I was too much of a casual Christian to grasp the meaning of the entire encounter.

Only now these decades later do I understand what a missed opportunity of grace that was and I thank-God for that young and enthusiastic Christian man.

I often ask our Heavenly Father to grant me forgiveness for my lack of openness and charity.

Indeed, this is the constant prayer of my heart.

So there I was in that cold sacristy in the middle of a World War reborn in living water.

I would grow up on the shores of the great water over which the Spirit had hovered at the beginning and in the years to come, in the silence of the night, as a great war waged relentlessly within me, soak my being with the water of tears….not of contrition but of being overwhelmed by it all.