May 4th, 2008 -- after a long struggle, we finally have a new Catholic daughter: Marissa Ann (I'm the godfather, don't you know). The struggle was on the part of Mike and Malou, her parents, in their attempt to schedule a baptism class, then the actual baptism itself. They finally got in through the "back door": as Marissa is going in for surgery May 15th, they were granted priority for a "semi-'emergency'" baptism that just happened to coincide with the regularly scheduled baptism following the noon Mass on the 4th.
The prelude was a bit spooky for me: at the preceding Mass, I sat in front of a woman who, if not in fact, appeared to be the mother of my other god-child -- another emergency arrangement: Fr. D asked me to be the godfather of little Katerina because the parents only had a "Christian Witness" as a sponsor. God save her! I haven't heard from them since, and my heart breaks each time I think of my lack in raising my god-daughter in a proper Catholic upbringing.
The baptism went extremely well -- although the Deacon looked in askance when her godmother, Aileen, and I, after the ceremony, laid little Marissa on the altar: consecrating her to God.
Marissa was joined by (Theresa) Nikki, a new born (and born again) of acquaintances of our family, so I was the first to greet and to congratulate their family on their new saint in the making.
Before, during and after the baptism, my rôle as godfather (just call me Dom Auclair) was questioned -- Mike's mom (and, by extension, my own mom, as Mike and I are twins, separated at birth ... and, um, time, and, um, place of birth, and, um ... well, okay, we're not really twins separated at birth, but both our mother's middle names are 'Ann' ... but, of course, every Catholic girl born circa that era had a middle name of 'Ann', so there it is) and I debated Catholic habit (standing/kneeling/sitting and reading the Bible) and dates of Vatican councils (she was pleased that I put the Nicene council in the right age, forcing Mike to jump in: "Well, why do you think we picked him as godfather? Whenever Marissa has a question, guess where we'll send her?"), the Deacon handed me the candle, joking that the godfather never gets to do anything during the ceremony, and, then, several days after, Fr. Kleinmann and I debated the efficacy of the godfather ("None" was my answer, as the Holy Spirit motivates everything, and so to God all the glory. "Well, you could try to emulate by example God's love", Fr. responded. Which begged the question, which I asked: "How can one get 'close' to the infinite goodness that is God?").
See, that's the thing: I can, as an apologist, debate the finer points of theology with my betters, and still carry the point (daily reading St. Thomas helps here), but for saving souls, I've had catastrophic results. When a boy turns to me with the confession: "I don't believe in God anymore," I was less than useless in helping him. I can convince an atheistic physicist that there exists a primary mover, but then the very next day, he's still spouting Sartre (his hero -- who, ironically, received last rites and renounced his existentialism on his death bed: "There are no atheists in foxholes"). What profit is it to me that I can quote scripture, if my life doesn't lead the lost sheep to Christ?
Well, so, as Marissa's godfather, it will be I who is put to the test: can I, as her godfather and as a "Christian witness" (a real witness to Christ), help her to see that God loves her and to show her how to love God, purely and correctly, in return?
That is the question. Her life, and mine, will be the answer.
After the reception, I had the honor of taking Mike's mom to the airport, on her (harrowing, don't ride in a car with the geophf if you fear for your life) ride we did get a moment of refection. She told me she treasured the intimacy of the friendship Mike and I share. I was surprised. Mike and I have a friendship that I view in the cadence of something that is not measured, but as something as solid and as necessary as air. I don't know how or why Mike and I have a spiritual kinship that is as strong as blood, but it's something there that Mike and I have regarded and then moved past. That Mike's mom noticed and admired this bond was strange for me. It is as revelatory as that a fish noticing the ocean in which it swims.