What Makes Us Catholic: Eight Gifts for Lifeby Thomas H. Groome
What makes a Catholic a Catholic? According to Thomas Groome, an expert on the essential ingredients of Catholic Christianity, Catholics share certain vital features of life and identity. What Makes Us Catholic explains and illuminates that character, and invites Catholics of all kinds to connect more deeply and imaginatively with their own culture and/b>
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What makes a Catholic a Catholic? According to Thomas Groome, an expert on the essential ingredients of Catholic Christianity, Catholics share certain vital features of life and identity. What Makes Us Catholic explains and illuminates that character, and invites Catholics of all kinds to connect more deeply and imaginatively with their own culture and spirituality.
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Marybeth gently cradled Luke out sideways. The priest intoned solemnly, "Luke, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Water rolled down the little head into the baptismal font below. The words echoed through the cavernous old New York church with a definitive ring, as if marking a watershed, literally, with things never to be the same again. Ten-week-old Luke rendered some top-lung protest, and then surveyed the ogling assembly as if knowing he was at center stage.
The priest lit a small candle from the big Easter one and handed it to me. "Receive the light of Christ," he said, and then, with a commissioning tone, "Parents and Godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly." I prayed in my heart to be a good godfather to this new member of the Body of Christ. I resolved to help his parents share with Luke the Christian faith into which, as the priest announced, "he has now been baptized."
The ceremony completed, and it being a lovely April afternoon, we walked up Broadway from Fifty-ninth to Seventy-first for a reception. The newly minted Christian, Luke, led the entourage in a regal-looking pram, a family heirloom. I fell into step with Peter, the proud father and himself brought up as a Lutheran. Peter said the ceremony meant a lot to him, that he thought the priest had done a good job. He was glad so many family and friends could come; likely some had never been at a Catholic baptism before. Then he added reflectively, "Yeh know, a lot of people have negative stereotypes about Catholicism. They think it's only about sin and guilt, but it's a lot cooler than that."
Ah, I thought to myself, now that's the version we should share with Luke -- the "cool" one -- the Catholic Christianity that encourages fullness of life. It has a thousand stories we could tell to this good end and some that would not serve well at all. I wondered about which is which and how to choose.
By now, however, we had reached the restaurant and I put my musings aside for another time. Then we enacted an old faith story that I would surely tell Luke someday -- we had a grand party to celebrate his baptism. With lots of good food and choice wine, laughter and conversation, his Catholic socialization had made a good beginning!
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Thomas H. Groome is chair of the Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry and professor of theology and religious education at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry and author of What Makes Us Catholic?
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