By Cliff Garvey
New Life at Baptism
We mark special events and milestones in our lives through celebrations. We add birthday candles to decorated cakes in order to mark the passing of another year in our lives. We march across a stage or through a stadium wearing colored caps and gowns with tassels as we graduate from kindergarten, elementary school, high school, and sometimes college. These and other events commemorate changes in our lives.
In our spiritual lives, we also mark special moments with celebrations. As Catholic Christians, we have seven very special occasions that we remember: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. These seven sacraments are special occasions where we encounter our Lord Jesus Christ, where the Lord comes to us to celebrate with us, and to change our lives.
During the Easter season, we gather to mark the holiest moment in our Christian tradition: the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Crucified King now risen from the dead. As a community of faith we have come to celebrate the hope of new life which Christ has bestowed upon all who believe in Him. For “we were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life (Romans 6:4).”
New Life at Easter
On Easter Sunday, we are surrounded by signs of new life and by the symbols of our own baptism: the font of water and the Paschal Candle. During the Easter celebrations, we renew our baptismal promises whereby we renounce Satan and all his works and all his empty promises. And with one voice and one heart we profess our faith in God – Father, Son, and Spirit and in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. The renewal of these baptismal promises continues with the sprinkling of the congregation with the waters newly blessed at the Easter Vigil. In this act of faith, we are again reminded of our new life in Christ. The Risen Christ has conquered death and sin and opened for us the path of holiness and brought us into the kingdom of light.
During the Easter season, we also bask in the glow of the Paschal Candle, lit for the first time at the Easter Vigil. This beautiful candle was brought into a dark church to help us recall the power of the Light of Christ in our lives. This light was given to each of us at Baptism. It is a sign of Christ’s presence in our everyday life. The light is the sign of our rebirth in the Risen Christ through the waters of baptism. The challenge is to keep this flame of faith burning brightly in our lives. Through example and word, we are called to be bright lights of faith to one another and to the world.
New Life in Assisi
In Assisi, a pilgrim can see the baptismal font in which not only Clare and Francis were baptized but also countless citizens of Assisi across the centuries. In the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi, one enters the church and to the right is the alcove where the baptismal font remains to this day. There we can see where both Francis and Clare received their first call to follow the Lord Jesus, in the gift of faith given to them at Baptism. They were just babies when their parents presented them for baptism. Who could know that the seed of faith planted in their hearts that day that would grow and bear fruit for the Lord and for the world?
The gift of “new life” in the Lord would also be manifested in these two saints of Assisi. With Francis’ conversion, he stripped himself of worldly goods and benefits and took the robe of a poor man, the sackcloth of sinners. In this dramatic act, in the city center of Assisi, Francis rejected his earthly father and his inheritance and professed his faith in his heavenly Father and the riches of eternal life that God offers. And throughout his ministry, his mission, his service to his brothers and sisters, Francis lived the new life in Christ with faith, hope, and charity.
In a similar way, Claire also stripped herself of her earthly riches and blessings and took the veil of new life in Christ. In her act of dedicating herself to the Crucified and Risen Christ, Claire cloistered herself in prayer and experienced the graces that flow from a humble and contrite heart, from complete trust and faith in the Lord. Even in the darkest moments of physical pain or spiritual suffering, Claire basked in the light of Christ ever burning in her heart and soul, that true light of Christ first given to her at Baptism.
New life is promised to all of us in Baptism. Throughout this Easter Season, as we gather in the Church for the celebration of the resurrection, may the light of Christ continue to burn brightly in our hearts and in our lives. And in the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace (cf. Gospel of Luke 1:78-79).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cliff Garvey is co-founder and spiritual director of the Assisi Project. During the past twelve years, he has visited Assisi twenty-six times. Cliff also serves as a pilgrimage and retreat leader, university lecturer, and as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts, USA. For more information about the Assisi Project, please contact him at email@example.com.
Spring Day of Prayer & Reflection
Mary, Mother of All Peoples
Saturday, May 4th
The Blessed Virgin Mary is known and venerated by countless names and titles throughout the world. Some of these titles are dogmatic; some are artistic; and some are the result of popular piety. Through these titles, we learn about Mary’s life, legacy, and loving care for God’s people; we learn about our Lord Jesus Christ; and we learn something about ourselves and God’s Holy Church. Whether we think of her as “Theotokos” (Mother of God), “Panagia” (Mother of Mercy), or as Our Lady of Angels, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, or Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Mary lives in our hearts and in the Church as the Blessed Mother of All Peoples.
In this spirit and in celebration of the various devotions to Our Lady during the month of May, all are invited to join Father Jim and Cliff Garvey for a “Spring Day of Prayer & Reflection: Mary, Mother of All Peoples” on Saturday, May 4th in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church (located at 142 Prospect Street in Gloucester, Massachusetts). During this four-hour morning retreat, we will explore the Blessed Mother’s loving intercession and protection of God’s family across the centuries. We will also consider how our devotion to Mary can help us overcome the growing darkness of bigotry, division, and exclusion that seems so prevalent in our own time.
Our day of prayer and reflection will proceed according to the following schedule: Celebration of Mass at 8:00am; First Reflection & Faith Sharing at 9:00am; Eucharistic Adoration & Rosary at 10:00am; Second Reflection & Faith Sharing at 11:15am; Angelus & Closing Prayers at 12:00pm. After our program, all are invited to join us for a delicious potluck lunch in the parish hall.
Throughout the morning, there will be scheduled breaks and time for faith sharing, fellowship, and questions. Coffee, tea, bottled water, and refreshments will be available throughout the morning. During Mass, a collection will be taken up in support of the adult and youth faith formation programs in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport. If you would like to participate in this special event, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! Bring a friend! All are invited! All are welcome!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with members, friends, and followers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages to more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry through smile.amazon.com or by sending your donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for faith formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. May the Lord give you peace!
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