|Interior of baptistery at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. |
(Photo by Dnalor_01. Source. Wikimedia Commons. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0.)
Today I am blessed to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of my baptism. Receiving this sacrament as an infant, I became a member of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church which was founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ some two thousand years ago for the salvation of the world. Through this sacrament, I also received the gifts of the Holy Spirit along with the responsibility to be a faithful witness to Christ in my daily life. Pope Francis has rightly reminded us in recent years that each of us should know and celebrate the anniversary of our baptism. In fact, our spiritual rebirth in Christ is a far more significant occasion than our physical birth into this world, because our physical birth merely ushered us into a temporary existence on this planet, whereas our second birth of water and the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3) washed our souls clean of the inherited curse of original sin and brought us the priceless gift of the Triune God's own life within us through sanctifying grace, which is the beginning and the foretaste of eternal life with God in heaven, the ultimate goal of our existence.
About a year and a half ago, I discovered a beautiful book written by Pope Saint John Paul II entitled Rise, Let Us Be on our Way, in which he discusses the character and responsibilities of the episcopal office in light of his own experiences as a bishop in Communist Poland. One of the things that really stuck with me from reading this book was John Paul's intense awareness of the awe-inspiring gift and responsibility of being a member of the one true Church whose history, culture, and tradition can be traced back nearly 2,000 years to Christ Himself. As auxiliary bishop and then archbishop of Krakow from 1958 to 1978, John Paul was acutely conscious of the fact that he was merely the latest link in an unbroken chain of apostolic succession stretching across some twenty centuries, including nine centuries in his native country, and he strove with all his being to preserve and hand on to his flock the rich faith tradition he had inherited, to carry the torch of the light of Christ undimmed from his predecessor to his successor.
Although not a bishop myself, as a baptized layman I am nonetheless a member of Christ's Mystical Body and a tiny part of the immensely rich and glorious heritage of the universal Church, with its great Eastern and Western theological and philosophical traditions, its sound doctrinal and moral teachings, its vibrant liturgical, sacramental, and prayer life, its trustworthy magisterial authority residing in the Pope and bishops, its thousands of known (and millions of unknown) heroic saints and martyrs, its diversity of religious orders, lay associations, and approved private revelations, its impressive collection of scientifically verified miracles, its colorful and often stormy history, and its unparalleled record of accomplishment in the fields of art, architecture, music, literature, education, healthcare, science, and politics.
One of the greatest joys of my life is to constantly be deepening my knowledge of, and appreciation for, my Catholic religion and the incomparable treasures God has bestowed on the world through His Church. What a blessing to know the fullness of divinely revealed truth and to inherit so many good things. Becoming Catholic--and being Catholic--is indeed something to celebrate, not just once a year, but every day of our lives!