When’s the last time you thought about your baptismal day? If you’re a recent convert, maybe you’ve thought about your baptism frequently, but if you were baptized as an infant, how often do you “reference” that event and day? My guess is that for most of us, our baptism was an important event in our faith life that somehow happened “way back when.” But in his Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI tells us that “baptism is not a rite from the past but the encounter with Christ, which informs [our] entire existence.” How appropriate, then, to start Lent off this year by remembering who we are and whose we are through our baptismal consecration!
Sr. Patricia Walter, OP, characterizes the profession of religious vows (the evangelical counsels) as a “specification of the baptismal call.” What might she be getting at? At our baptism, we (or our godparents, in our name) promised that we would take up the vocation of the Christian disciple, living our lives according to the Gospel values embodied in Jesus Christ, who was poor, chaste, and obedient. Our baptismal promises, then, commit us to valuing spiritual riches over material ones (poverty), to loving purely those to whom we are committed by vow (chastity), and to following the will of God in our daily lives (obedience). When the consecrated religious man or woman makes a public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, we are vowing to witnessing publicly for the entirety of our lives that to which each of the baptized is called! This is why the vocation to the religious life is sometimes called a “prophetic” vocation—because it announces loudly and boldly the vocation to discipleship each of us has already accepted at our baptism.
It is a good idea, then, to remember our baptismal vows at least every once in awhile! What a wonderful opportunity it is to reflect on the meaning and rite of our baptism as part of our daily Lenten meditation. After all, if our Lent is to be a journeying with Christ, doesn’t it make sense to start at the very beginning of that journey…our baptism?