Conversion Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lydia B.

God Writes Straight with Crooked Lines: A Conversion Story



So there I was, crammed into a tiny Boeing 737 bathroom whilst trying to pee into very small Dixie cup. I was flying to Alabama and due to the early morning flight, needed to check my fertility on the Clear Blue monitor I use for the Marquette Method of Family Planning. Despite the turbulence of the Rockies, I successfully avoided urinating all over myself. Win! During this debacle I started laughing out loud to myself. Seriously, how many Catholics–or women just desperate to get pregnant–have checked their LH levels at 35,000 feet?

How did I get to this point in my life, especially when I am not even Catholic? Like many conversion stories, it’s a long one. I wanted this first blog post to be my introduction. I am a real person, just like you. I struggle. I juggle being a wife to a military man, and having three jobs. I feel guilty I do not spend enough time with my six-, two-, and one-year-old. I eat off the floor most days of the week, sadly content to eat the scraps of my disgruntled toddlers. I lament I do not set enough time aside for God. I have phases where I am all over our Lord Jesus, followed by dry spells where I just keep praying for the rains of passion to come back. The struggle is real.

Perhaps because of my struggles, I have had this unquenchable drive for the truth. Ironically, Jesus said in John 8:32 that “the truth shall set you free.” I searched for the truth during my Protestant upbringing, never fully satisfied. At 18, my heart was ripped from my chest when my little non-denominational church split over an argument of whether baptism should constitute full immersion in water or just a few drops sprinkled on the head. The church voted to fire the pastor that I had grown to love like a father. Sixty of 120 people left the church. I sobbed and sobbed. There must be something better. God could not have wanted His Church to be this way.

I was early on in my military career and had the benefit of free education. I took a religion class and thoughtfully researched the top five religions. I never wavered from Christianity, but I wanted to be open-minded and hear out the others. The falseness of the other religions, especially Islam, seemed evident to me. I felt at peace knowing that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

While learning more about Christianity, however, I discovered that all roads led to the Catholic Church. Odd, I thought. Growing up, I had been taught that Catholics were going to hell for blasphemy. They worship the anti-Christ (Pope), Mary, so-called Saints, and had idols in their sanctuaries. Worse yet, Catholics believe they are eating the flesh of Christ, like some weird, perverted cannibal. Catholics are sadly mistaken people who believe Jesus never got off the cross, which is why he is still on the Crucifix. In short, to be Catholic was to be an unbeliever.

It was exactly the time I was transitioning off of active duty service that I had a come-to-Jesus meeting. I invited Jesus. I was in the Bible Belt deep in South Carolina, parked at a Red Lobster. I said a prayer to God asking for a sign that Catholicism was the right denomination for me. I closed my car door and walked into the restaurant. After the hostess ushered me to my table, I sat down and glanced at the table. Next to the salt and pepper shakers was a genuine, Italian made medallion of Saint Christopher. Let me re-iterate. I was deep in the Protestant Bible Belt and had never seen a Catholic church in the five years I had lived there. I picked up that medallion and cried. I have that medallion on my key chain to this day.

Change doesn’t come easy though, does it? I wanted proof. I wanted someone to refute all of those Catholic misnomers that Protestants indoctrinate their children with. I signed up for RCIA a year later, but no one ever called me. I signed up a second time. No one called me. I began to get discouraged and irritated that Catholics seemed so lackadaisical about gaining followers for Christ. Many Catholics seemed content to just go through the motions and bolt like a Kentucky Derby champion out of the pews after mass. I turned to Catholic radio for answers and for three years worked out doctrinal and theological issues in my head.

The olive branch to the Catholic faith came from an unusual source: Mary. If you have ever been Protestant, you know what a hang-up those Christians have with Mary being the Mother of God, Immaculately Conceived, and Ever-Virgin. But God used my first pregnancy to connect me to Mary, as both of us had very long journeys during our ninth month of pregnancy. She was the gateway. My heart started to accept Catholicism more and more. I started RCIA two more times, successfully finishing the course in 2014. This part of the journey took 10 years.

I am currently in limbo now. Terrible life choices in our 20s led my husband and me to marry different people. My annulment was granted in 2016; my husband’s is still ongoing. There is the possibility he had a valid Catholic marriage. Looking at the Catechism, it is pretty clear we are living in sin because our legal marriage was not blessed by a priest—it couldn’t be.

But guess what? Jesus came to forgive me. I have faith that whatever the annulment outcome, I can remain Catholic in my heart. I will work on purifying myself every day in some small way. For example, at Mass I go up and receive a blessing from the priest. I have had all our girls baptized. I even spent five sessions having the priest perform soul-tie cutting of every unhealthy sexual relationship I have had.

We should all strive to be Saints, and sometimes the journey there is not pretty, as you can see by this post. But do not give up. Keep fighting through your struggles. Pray. Ask God for signs and listen quietly for answers. But more than anything, believe. God is real. God loves you and He is coming back for you.

Adrienne Conversion Faith Formation Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Participating in Two Traditions and Why I’m Still Catholic

I’m a Catholic.  A Cradle Catholic.

I first had God’s living grace poured into my soul as a newborn at baptism.  I was raised going to Mass every Sunday and Holy Days, received all of my Sacraments on time and participated in catechism classes and youth group.  Through all of that, I managed to absorb about as much knowledge about my faith as if I hadn’t been there at all, but my parents did what they could to keep my soul in a state of grace, as good Catholic parents do.

I married a Protestant Christian.

For a long time I didn’t really know what that meant.  Even after we were married, I still didn’t know what divided our traditions.  My husband, too, had been raised faithfully Christian, however he had never found a church home in college (when and where we met).  So although he’d sometimes come to Mass with me, I wasn’t able to go to service with him until well after we were married.  It wasn’t until I was pregnant with our third child that my husband joyfully found a church home, where he’s been an integral part of the community ever since.

Participating in Two Christian Traditions.

For the past many years we’ve attended 9 am Mass at my parish, then attended 11 am service at my husband’s church (which is about 2 miles down the street) and we hit our favorite donut shop in between.

Sunday after Sunday, I hear Monsignor preach about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the reality of intrinsic evil in our world now being passed off as inherently good.  Half of Mass is spent in the Liturgy of the Word with Scripture readings and a homily, and that is followed by worshipping the physical Christ during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Then, Sunday after Sunday, I go to Bible Church to hear the senior pastor issue the reminder that you must “Put your faith alone, in Christ alone, for the forgiveness of your sins” and offer earnest encouragement to become not just followers of Christ but disciples of Christ by continuing to grow spiritually.  The first half of the service is spent worshiping Christ in song, and that is followed by hearing a sermon explaining a passage of the Bible according to the book of Scripture currently being studied.

I’ve made a good deal of friends in my parish, faithful, educated, caring Catholic friends, and I have participated in several groups there.  I’ve also made a good deal of friends at my husband’s church, as they are as friendly and likable as all get out.  As a family, we participate in a small group Bible study there.  Combined, I’ve had a rare opportunity to deeply experience Christian life in both traditions for the last almost six years.

Study Books

What exactly are our differences?

My husband and I were married in my current parish, and all of our children were baptized there as well.  It wasn’t until the baptisms of my children that I was finally pushed to figure out what divided myself and my husband, as infant baptism was one of the items on that list.  I knew the word “Reformation” and the name “Martin Luther”, so I started there (I’d never heard of John Calvin or Ulrich Zwingli!).  I used the internet to educate myself before eventually  finding books.  I would read Protestant explanations of why the Catholic teaching on something was wrong and why their teaching was Biblical.  I would also read the Catholic counter parts.  I had to discover that our traditions differed on the nature of Grace on the soul, the nature of Communion, the nature of Baptism, the nature of the Church, and the Canon of the Bible, just to name a few.  It took well more than reading a one-sided article on each of these subjects to develop an understanding of either side.  I read countless articles and resources from both sides about their own position and about each other’s.

Learning how to Learn.

I’m about a decade into a life long journey of learning.  I have found that without comparison, the most accurate way to learn about a particular tradition is by reading multiple sources about it from those who hold it to be true.  I have found that the least accurate way to learn about a tradition is to listen to its opponents, no matter how dignified, confident or sympathetic they may sound, and no matter how much I may like them.  One cannot accurately (fully and convincingly) teach about a position they do not hold to be true, even if they formerly held to that tradition.  The opponent will always fall short, often very short.

IMG_0171“Why were you Catholic?”

Over the last 10 years, if you had asked me why I was still Catholic the answer would have varied as I grew.  My first answer would have been “Because I was raised Catholic” with side sentiments that all faiths are true and didn’t matter much.  About midway through the last 10 years it would have been something like, “I feel Jesus’s presence more in Mass” without being able to articulate the Real Presence in the Eucharist.  During these last several years I would have answered why I was still Catholic with a litany of, “Church Authority, Salvation by Grace Alone, Justification by Faith and Works, Regenerative Baptism, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, a proper understanding of Mary, Praying in the Communion of Saints both on Earth and in Heaven, the teachings on Purgatory…” and I would have been eager to get into a discussion on them all.

“Why are you still Catholic?”

Today, my honest answer as to why I’m still a Catholic has returned to “because I was raised Catholic”.  Because I was raised Catholic, I received God’s graces before my will could reject them.  Because I was raised Catholic, I was taught good habits that effectively kept my soul healthy even though I didn’t understand (much like teaching a child good hygiene effectively keeps their bodies healthy, even if they don’t understand).

Lastly and perhaps most convincingly, because I was raised Catholic, when the time came for me to learn about Christian traditions, and to learn about the fullness of Christ’s teachings, I was free to explore Catholicism openly and fully.  I am deeply thankful I wasn’t hindered by being taught, “Christ is the way, the truth and the life” in the same breath as, “Catholicism is false.”  If I had, then naturally I would have avoided ever studying it with the intention to see if it could be true.

I have had the unique opportunity to freely explore what Catholicism really teaches from countless Catholic sources, both modern Catholics and ancient Church Father Catholics. When a Protestant source challenged me on the truth of a particular Catholic teaching, say veneration of the saints, I didn’t just accept the Protestant’s  well-articulated position as comprehensive.  Instead, I would go to not one, but several Catholic sources, to figure out what Catholics had to say for themselves.  It has been a time consuming journey in which few people would care to take.  However, I am ever grateful that I didn’t rely on non-Catholics, ex-Catholics or poorly formed Catholics to teach me about Catholicism, because I would have never discovered the real teachings of the Catholic Church. 

Apologetics Ecumenism Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacred Scripture Tiffany P

Defending the Canon of the Bible–All 73 Books, Part 2

Last week, in the first part of this two part series, I gave a brief outline of the history of the Church and, by effect, the history of the Bible. The timeline showed how the Bible came as a product of the Church (rather than vice versa), how the Church was lead by God in councils lead by bishops to discern which texts belonged in the Biblical canon, thus compiling the books into the Bible as we know it today. After 1,500 years of one accepted canon used by all Christians, Martin Luther made the decision through his own, self-proclaimed authority, to remove seven books from the canon: Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Baruch, and part of Esther and Daniel. The Church there after met at the Council of Trent to address Luther’s heresies and reaffirm the canon of the Bible. Protestants today claim that it was at the Council of Trent that the Catholic Church “added” these books to the Bible.

In discourse with a Protestant, one challenge they may give you is to prove that the seven books they call “the Apocrypha” were part of the canon before the Council of Trent. Right away, a few easy explanations may come to mind. For one, we have pictorial  evidence of ancient Bibles, long before Luther’s day, that include these books. Additionally, a quick look at an Eastern Orthodox Bible will show that they also contain these seven books. The Eastern Orthodox church split from the Catholic Church in the 1200s, over 300 years before the Council of Trent.

These facts alone may be enough to stop some protesting Protestants in their evangelizing tracks, but it never hurts to be extra prepared. The following is a list of historical and Scriptural evidence that leaves no room for doubt that the original Christian Bibles contained the seven books that have since been rejected by our Protestant brethren.

The Councils that Canonized and Compiled Scripture

It cannot be denied that the Bible was canonized and compiled in the 300s, by a council of bishops acting under the Church’s authority and thus, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We know that God did not drop the completed Bible from the sky, but used men to do this task from writing it to putting it together. Most reasonable Protestants will admit this fact. Here are a few transcripts from these councils. It stands to reason that if one rejects even one of the writings decided upon in this councils, they must reject the entire Bible, for all writings were canonized at the same councils.

“[It has been decided] that nothing except the canonical Scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine Scriptures. But the canonical Scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, Paralipomenon, two books, Job, the Psalter of David, five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach], twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees . . .” (Council of Carthrage  A.D. 397]).

“[It has been decided] that besides the canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the canonical Scriptures are as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the Son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the Kings, four books, the Chronicles, two books, Job, the Psalter, the five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach] , the twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra, two books, Maccabees, two books . . .” (Council of Hippo [A.D. 393]).


St. Augustine–an alleged Protestant

Though St. Augustine’s writings show him to be a brilliant Catholic theologian, many Protestants claim him as their own, asserting that his believed in justification by faith alone. One Protestant ministry founded by the famous Protestant R.C. Sproul claims “Calvin and Luther did not teach anything that Augustine did not teach.” Clearly Mr. Sproul had not been seeped too deeply in St. Augustine’s works, but I regress. For those Protestant followers of St. Augustine, introduce them to what he had to say about the canon.

“The whole canon of the Scriptures, however, in which we say that consideration is to be applied, is contained in these books: the five of Moses . . . and one book of Joshua [Son of] Nave, one of Judges; one little book which is called Ruth . . . then the four of Kingdoms, and the two of Paralipomenon . . . . [T]here are also others too, of a different order . . . such as Job and Tobit and Esther and Judith and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Esdras . . . .  (St. Augustine On Christian Instruction 2:8:13 [ca. A.D. 395

We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at his altar the commendation of the dead has its place” (St. Augustine On the Care That Should be Taken for the Dead 1:3 [A.D. 421])

St. Augustine’s above statement in bold shows that the passage in his preceding sentence, 2 Maccabees 13:43, is indeed in the Old Testament. Take note also that St. Augustine’s statements, as well as the transcripts from the councils,  all occur before the year 500, over 1,000 years before Martin Luther.


But What About Jesus…?

The final refutation a Protestant might give is based on the assumption that Jesus never quoted or referenced from any of those seven books. This argument does not hold water, as Jesus did not even quote from every single book of the Protestant Old Testament, but nonetheless it would not hurt our case if He did reference them.
And… He did.
Matthew 6:12, 14-15—“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your heavenly father forgive your transgressions.”
Sirach 28:2—“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”

Luke 18:22—“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Sirach 29:11—Dispose of your treasure as the Most High commands, for that will profit you more than the gold.”

John 3:12—“If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”
Wisdom 9:16—“Scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;
but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?”

John 10:29—“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.”
Wisdom 3:1—“But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.”
Imagine if today, someone tried to remove a book, a chapter, a verse, or even one mere word from the Bible.  Protestants would likely scream bloody murder, while the Catholic Church would merely shake her head, for she has been through this before. 500 years ago, not one book but seven books (and parts of two others) were taken from the Bible. In the years since our Protestant brethren who devote themselves to Scripture and holding it in such high regard have been missing out on the beautiful words found in these seven books that have always been a part of the canon.




Apologetics Ecumenism Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacred Scripture Tiffany P

Defending the Canon of the Bible–All 73 Books

One common dispute against the Catholic Church by well meaning but misinformed Protestants is the assertion that the Catholic Church “added” books to the Bible.  As it is commonly known, Protestant Bibles only contain 66 books, as they do not include Sirach, Baruch, Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, 1 and 2 Maccabees, as well as parts of Esther and Daniel.  In this two part series, with part two coming out next week, I hope to provide some guidance on defending the original 73 book canon of the Bible with historical fact. As often times Protestants disregard life in the early Church and writings from early Church fathers on the grounds that they are not Sacred Scripture, begin by reminding them of one area in which Church history is all we have to rely on, that is that the Scriptures do not themselves contain a list of which writings should belong. This point also refutes Sola Scriptura since it was the authoritative decision of the Magesterium that declared which writings were inspired and compiled them into what would become known as “The Bible”. Often Protestants will indeed reference history by claiming that the Catholic Church added the books to the Bible at the Council of Trent. The following is a timeline of the history of the Scriptures, that should hopefully serve as a guide for refuting common claims and showing our Protestant brethren how the book they hold so dear came to be and what it originally included:

AD 33: Christ establishes His Church in the days before ascending back into Heaven, (Matthew 16:18,19), therefore not leaving His flock untended and fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 22:21-23.  Also in this year, God sends His Holy Spirit over the Church on the day of Pentecost, so that it may be divinely guided, and the Teachings will not waver. These are important points in which to begin because they begin to show that the Church did not come from the Bible, the Bible came from the Church.

AD 51-121: The New Testament books are in the process of being written over the course of these years, as well as other early Christian writings that did not make it into the New Testament canon: the Didache (AD 70), 1 Clement (96), the Epistle of Barnabas (100), and the 7 letters of St. Ignatius to Antioch (107). Point out that although the works are not Sacred Scripture, they can be used as historical documents through which we can see what original Christianity was like, which we see is a Church that submitted to bishops, celebrated the Eucharist with a belief that Jesus was truly present, baptized people of all ages with the belief that the waters brought saving graces, and devotion to Mary as the Mother of the Church.

AD 140: Marcion, a businessman in Rome, taught that there were two Gods: Yahweh, the cruel God of the Old Testament, and Abba, the kind father of the New Testament. Marcion eliminated the Old Testament as scriptures and, because he was anti-Semitic, kept from the New Testament only 10 letters of Paul and 2/3 of Luke’s gospel (he deleted references to Jesus’s Jewish culture). Marcion’s “New Testament” was the first “Bible” to be compiled (though outside the authority of the Church), which compelled the bishops to authoritatively decide on a core canon: the four Gospels and Letters of Paul.

AD 367: This year is the first time the list of books in the New Testament, as it is today, is decided upon and physically written down, by St. Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, in one of his letters.

AD 382: Pope Damasus I, reaffirmed Athanasius’ list, making a list of them himself, in their present number and order.

AD 393:  The council of Hippo met in this year. The council of Hippo officially reaffirmed the list and order of the New Testament as it is today, first written down nearly thirty years before by the Bishop of Alexandria. It is at this council in this year that the New Testament as we know it today became declared the infallible Word of God, by Christ’s Church, nearly 400 years after Christianity began.

AD 397: At the Council of Carthage, the early Church leaders reaffirmed both the New Testament canon and the Old Testament canon as the infallible Word of God. This includes the 7 books of the Old Testament that modern day Protestants reject. We can say that this year is the official birth year of the Bible as we know it today.

WARNING: Big time jump ahead…

AD 1536: Over a thousand years later, in his translation from Greek to German, Luther removed seven books from the Old Testament canon. I Maccabees, II Maccabees, Tobit, Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, and Baruch. His followers supported this as he had the opinion of the anti-Christian Jewish rabbis to point to as an example. However, he only moved these books to an appendix, and the original King James Version included them. It was not until the 1800s in which they were removed completely, and today Protestants often do not realize they were ever there in the first place. Luther then proceeded to place 4 New Testament books, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation in an appendix, claiming they were less than canonical. However, this was quickly shot down, as he did not have the precedent to do so.

AD 1546: Due to the issues Luther was causing, the Church met again in the Council of Trent to reaffirm, once and for all, that the 27 books of the New Testament canon, that was spoken by the Church so long ago, was indeed the infallible Word of God. This is often where Protestants get confused and assume that the Catholic Church added the seven books at this council. As historical evidence shows, they were always part of the canon, and this council merely reaffirmed what they have always taught, just as the Church several other times in history has met in councils to stand their ground against various heresies of the time.

Knowing these events and dates can help in explaining the history of the Bible when approached with questions such as why Catholics have “extra” books. Next week, we will look deeper into these events, as well as the New Testament Scriptures, to show the undeniable validity of these  post-reformation rejected writings.



Apologetics Baptism Conversion Doctrine Ecumenism Faith Formation Sacraments Spiritual Growth Tiffany P

The Baptism of our Lord: the Reason Baptismal Regeneration is True

    In the spirit of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which was celebrated yesterday, my heart has been on this first baptism and the eternal effects that moment had on all Christians. Obviously, Jesus didn’t need the waters of baptism to purify or cleanse Himself, so that tends to raise the question of why did Jesus get baptized? I was taught in my Baptist childhood that Jesus got baptized to set the example for all future Christians. This is more or less the extent of the answer given by Baptist and other evangelical Protestant leaders, simply because they believe that baptism is merely a symbolic act: an “outward sign of an inward decision”, comparable to the Sacrament of Confirmation for Catholics. Going underneath the water represents the former person dying, and the rising up out of the water shows the emergence of a “new creation in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17). And while evangelical Protestants are not typically big into ceremonies or ritualistic acts, this one is embraced because Christ did it first.

These types of Protestants have it halfway right. Jesus indeed was baptized to set precedent for the Sacrament, so we may know that it’s an act of obedience that is to be taken seriously. However, as Catholics, we know that it is not merely a symbol of having been born again, but the very moment in which we are born into new creations in Christ:

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. –John 3:5

Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. –Colossians 2:12-13

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, –Titus 3:5b

With this knowledge in mind, Jesus’ baptism does more than just set the example, but rather His baptism is the reason why water performs this miracle on our soul. Not because there is anything magical about the water; contrary to common Protestant disputes, we are not relying on a superstition about the power of water. Jesus’ baptism served to purify all the waters—current and future—so that through His baptism the waters will have the ability to cleanse our souls.

Ignatius of Antioch, student under the apostle John who wrote extensively about baptism in the third chapter of his Gospel, wrote about this miracle:

“For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary by the dispensation of God, as well as of the seed of David as of the Holy Spirit: he was born, and was baptized, that by himself submitting he might purify the water (Letter to the Ephesians, 18).

Other Church fathers also touched on this subject:

 St. Ambrose of Milan: “The Lord was baptized, not to be cleansed himself but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of baptism. Whoever comes, therefore, to the washing of Christ lays aside his sins” (Commentary on Luke 2:83, A.D. 389).

St. Maximus of Turin: “Someone might ask, “Why would a holy man desire baptism?” Listen to the answer: Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water. For when the Savior is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence” (Sermon on the Feast of the Epiphany, c. 430)

In our Catholic tradition, we incorporate beautiful symbols into our baptism ceremonies: the candles symbolize the light of Christ, the white garments symbolize new life, the chrism representing the Holy Spirit. But even without these elements, a baptism is still valid and effective in making one a born again, new creation, so long as it is done in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit and water is the element used. Water is the only mandatory physical component in a valid, saving baptism, because Christ’s baptism has blessed the water. The water saves because Christ’s baptism has instilled His grace within it, equipping it to purify our souls.

At my own baptism in 2004, standing alongside my Baptist pastor in the baptismal pool, I heard him say the words “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are buried in the likeness of his death…” and under the water I briefly went, rising up again a second later, “…and raised to walk in the newness of life.”

At the time, I thought what was taking place was a representative ceremony to show everyone that I have decided to follow Christ. I thought I was stepping into waters only because I was modeling what Jesus did first. But now I know that at the moment I rose up out of the water, I was truly being “raised to walk in the newness of life”: the “newness” being the new creation that I became at that moment, as the effects of Christ’s baptism 2,000 years ago still remaining in those waters purified my soul and welcomed me to the family of God.