Catholic News Service
Franciscan Father Rock Travnikar, who died on Christmas Day 2016, was one of the first priests in the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, to fully implement the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
As the pastor of the small (only 95 families today) mission parish of Mother of Good Counsel in Hazard, Kentucky (now part of the Diocese of Lexington), he absolutely loved the Easter Vigil.
He understood the power inherent in the liturgical signs used during the vigil. The new fire was created in total darkness and quickly became a raging tempest of flames to illustrate the light of Christ.
All nine of the readings were done (long versions) so that the history of salvation could be fully heard and understood. This made for a long night, but that’s what a vigil is: a long wait in expectation for something important to happen, in this case, the resurrection.
The liturgical sign that Father Rock found most powerful during the vigil was the rite of baptism. Here in all of its enchanting mystery was the resurrection re-enacted in the lives of the elect who were seeking to be reborn in Christ.
Father Rock believed St. Paul when he wrote, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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” (Rom 6:3-4).
To symbolize this “being baptized into his death” and being “buried with him through baptism into death,” those baptized were inundated — literally buried — by a flood of water from which they would arise drenched from head to toe, spitting and sputtering, but knowing that they had been rescued from death.
By passing through this “tomb” of water, the newly baptized had now died to sin and were reborn in Christ’s love. They now could celebrate this newness of life.
For Susan, this “newness of life” was experienced in full participate in the Mass, including the reception of the Eucharist. Although her mother had been raised a Catholic, Susan attended the Methodist services held across the street from her house.
But she loved the Mass, which she had experienced from time to time, and decided to become Catholic when she turned 21.
This joy has continued now for many years. According to Susan, “I take a lot of joy in being Catholic. It changed my life. Entering the church has brought me a new way of celebrating and understanding the Lord’s teachings.”
For Karen, entering the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. As a child, her family never practiced any type of religion, but, “I envied the family who lived across the street because every Sunday they would go to Mass together. I would watch as they got in the car and leave, thinking, they belonged to something special.
“I asked one day if I could go with them. I didn’t know why, I just knew I wanted to do it, too. I remember being in awe of the beauty of the service and feeling a sense of that belonging they had.”
Later, as an adult, she married into a large Catholic family. In this family she felt “a sense of unity, whether it was praying together at home, attending Mass or living their day-to-day life, they belonged and embraced the Catholic faith.” She wanted to have what they had.
Following the birth of her children, Karen entered the church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and was baptized at the Easter Vigil and for the first time felt like she belonged as well.
For Karen, for Susan and even for Father Rock, baptism was indeed an entrance into a new life of faith.
(Mulhall is a catechist who lives in Louisville, Kentucky.)
Catholic News Service