Monday, June 6, 2016
Who Do I Think I Am?
I have tracked down my spiritual roots! This is no small thing for someone whose Baptismal name is different from the one on her birth certificate, and who had been told years ago that there was "no church by that name" in the city where she was baptized. And whose parents and alleged godparents (was my favorite uncle really my godfather? ...no one seemed totally sure) are all deceased.
But today, here it was. A call from a chancery. Yes, there was a church by that name, of course there was. When I was born it was a tiny, brand new parish in a tiny, rural suburb. Part of the city, but not exactly. A tiny unknown parish for a tiny, unknown, brand new baby girl. Thankfully it still exists, as do its records. They're kept in old books, like the ones people thumb through on the TV program "Who Do You Think You Are" (explained a friendly secretary on the phone today).
Never mind that my family moved from there when I was a toddler. Never mind that my baptismal name was not the same as my birth name - I had always known why, and it was simple. I'd been named Nancy Ann, and on Baptismal Day the priest refused to give me that name. Babies were baptized in Latin in those days, and in that language Nancy and Ann were the same. Father was not about to baptize this child "Anna Anna." My suddenly-rattled mother thought of one of her sisters, and I was baptized Nancy Helen. Which caused a bit of confusion in my Catholic grade school years, but fortunately provided me with an additional patron saint.
There is a lot of interest in genealogy today. Television programs feature people who are thrilled to discover heroic ancestors, long lost links, even living relatives. I find it intriguing.
Nothing, however, has been as thrilling for me as learning the exact date of my Baptism (which I had never known), and that this took place in a church I'd been told did not exist, and that my favorite uncle was indeed my godfather. With one simple phone call, I was able to track down actual, written-on-paper evidence of my relation to every saint in every age of the Church.
"We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church." (Pope Paul VI)
I am Nancy Helen, a member of the Body of Christ, and I'm thus related to every hero of the faith throughout the ages. I was claimed by Jesus Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism when I was three weeks and three days old. I am Nancy Helen, a daughter of God the Father and a servant of Christ my only Lord.
And that is who I know I am.
Painting: Matthijs Maris, Christening Procession in Lausanne