I was honored and blessed to baptize my granddaughter, Rey Dorothea, into the family of Christ over the Thanksgiving weekend. This is the homily from the service.
In the Name of God, who has taught us that whoever receives a little child in the name of Christ, receives Christ Himself. Amen
What a wonderful day for our families.
Looking around this chapel, it’s like turning the pages of a scrapbook: Past, present, and future are all here today.
I look at Corinna and Rey and remember that it was just three years ago that they were married, here at St. Mark’s. We are surrounded by happy memories of that day. How blessed we have been.
And here is little Rey Dorothea, our heart’s joy–on the same pillow created for her own mother Corinna’s baptism.
As always, I defer to Carmela, who describes the details of Corinna’s baptism far better than I: “This pillow is called a “portenfant,” a traditional infant carrier. My mother Catherine made it to carry Corinna down the street from our house to the little Episcopal Church in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where we were surrounded by monks from St. John’s Abbey, who were our colleagues.
Carmela continues: “I cannot remember too well what we served at the reception at our house after the baptism, but I do remember that your mother Dorothy and my mother basically did everything–cakes, little sandwiches, crostatas, cookies. It was very homemade, but very nice.”
Baptisms have been significant in each of our families–Reynaldo and Susan Ramirez, Big Rey’s parents, remember that both Rey and his sister Jennifer, born one year apart, were baptized on the same day at All Saints Catholic Church in Los Angeles, far away from cold Minnesota, and at their reception Rey’s mother Susan served her famous Spanish rice, gleefully consumed by all.
This afternoon at her baptism Rey Dorothea is surrounded in this chapel by holy women whose stories will be guides and inspiration throughout her life.
This beautiful Lady Chapel is a memorial to Fernanda Henry Wanamaker, who died in 1900. I draw your attention to the altar, made of marble encased by a permanent silver covering. The ceiling is the first known example of a stone vault in America. Fernanda’s husband, Rodman Wanamaker, founder of the famous Philadelphia department store, gave this beautiful space to remind us of the central place of holy women throughout the history of the Church. So what an appropriate place to baptize our little girl.
If you look over there you will see the silver sculptures of Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint Martha of Bethany, Saint Ursula, and there in the corner stands St. Catherine of Alexandria, whose feast day is today, November 25, and on this day of the baptism of little Rey it is also the Name Day of her great-grandmother Catherine, who is here, and also the Name Day of her mother Corinna–whose full name is Corinna CATHERINE Dorothea–since the original Corinna was a pagan, and there is no Saint Corinna, Saint Catherine will have to do, and moreover little Rey will be inspired by the example of Saint Catherine, who is said to have defeated, in debate, the pagan philosophers of Alexandria, following the example of Saint Paul.
And let us not forget that just a few miles from this chapel is the Church of the Advocate, where in 1974 the first eleven women were ordained priests in The Episcopal Church. They were the “Philadelphia Eleven,” and the crucifer that day was Barbara Clementine Harris, who would become the first female bishop to be consecrated in the history of the Anglican Communion.
These twelve women too will be models to little Rey of the power of faith and the necessity of joining struggles for justice and equality, particularly in this age of anxiety.
And Rey Dorothea’s female ancestors have also been fighters, and revolutionaries, and pioneers.
————Nanna Luccia, Carmela’s grandmother, who ran her own olive pressing business alone during the darkest days of World War II in Fascist Italy, not only sustaining her family, but providing for the poor of the village.
————–My grandmother Eddie who was a strong advocate for racial equity in the Jim Crow Mississippi of the 1950’s, so much so that in 1956 horsemen of the Ku Klux Klan came to her house to frighten her into silence.
—————And Big Rey’s great grandmother Maria Ramirez stood with Mexican revolutionaries in her village in occupied Mexico against foreign oppressors.
She would not be silenced.
And that’s enough, because you know that this chapel is filled this afternoon with living examples of such women, and little Rey is surrounded by strong men as well, above all her father Big Rey.
Little Rey may be silent now, but just wait a few years.
“Let the little ones come to me,” Jesus says to us in the Gospel Father Sean has just proclaimed. Jesus was indignant that anyone would prevent children from drawing near to him. “Do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God, like a child, shall not enter it.”
Even as a tiny child, little Rey is now called to join the Christian community; the one body of Christ, with all these saints and loved ones I have named today, in professing the one faith in which they lived and died.
As we move now to baptize little Rey and we ourselves re-affirm this one faith, let us all strive to be children of God, children, grateful for the blessings of this world, grateful that we have so much to offer to our newest little “peach.” Grateful for the future she points to–days and years of watching her grow into a life and a future we cannot even imagine, but that God, in God’s goodness, has in store for her.
May God help us to bring Ray Dorothea to love all that is true and noble, just and pure, strong and courageous———following the example of our Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ.