Dan Allen ‘07, ‘11 M.Div.
Spirituality Director, NDAA
The children arrived for our first meeting in early September uncertain and unenthused. With the evening sun still shining an array of orange and red and the weather mild, they looked like they wanted to be anywhere else besides an RCIA group structured for children.
I was not sure how things would go, either. As a new director of religious education at the parish, catechesis was part of my job, but with my class spanning from 2nd to 8th grade, I felt more like an old country school teacher in a one-room classroom. Despite the unknowns, we charged forward together, hoping that perseverance plus grace would lead to something meaningful.
Partway through the year, as we approached the Lenten season, we were really hitting our stride. The kids were starting to make connections to the material from earlier in the year and growing in their understanding and anticipation about what they were preparing to do. One memorable day, we were playing a game where I read a prompt and kids would slap the accompanying term on the whiteboard with flyswatters, seeing which team could do it first. I was getting so animated by the fact that both teams were doing so well that I lost track of the points! One of my more vocal and honest students piped up, “Mr. Allen, I have never seen you so excited in class before.” Indeed, my heart was full, not just because the children were increasing in their knowledge of the faith but because they were beginning to integrate it into their lives.
By the time we arrived at the Easter Vigil, there was a certain buzz in the air. It was one thing to have discussed, practiced, and imagined what receiving the Sacraments of Initiation would be like, but it was quite another to be actually going through them. I felt like a proud father of my brood of 10, grateful for the part that I was given to play in getting to this day. During the Baptisms at the Easter Vigil, my station was next to the font, holding the list to make sure everyone stayed in the correct order. It meant that I had a front row seat to the conversions that were happening before my eyes.
As a cradle Catholic, my connection to my Baptism is limited to a candle, pictures, and family stories, but the baptisms of these special children inspire strong memories. I love the line within the rites that encourages the neophytes to bring their baptismal garment unstained to eternal life. Hearing it that night, I thought about the ways that I had stained my “garment” over the years and the ways that God’s mercy had renewed it again. The irony of all of this for me was that I was not even the one receiving Sacraments for the first time—the hope, joy, conversion, and witness of these precious children of God led my heart to conversion, too. I renewed my baptismal promises with increased vigor that evening, humbled and appreciative of my participation in the resounding echoes made among the Communion of Saints.