Monday, August 4, 2014

Many Fonts: One Baptism

Monday greetings.

As promised, I wanted to share a little more about the parishes I visited in California late last week. The first was in California's fertile Central Valley, Saint Anthony Mary Claret in Fresno.

This parish is staffed by the Claretians. The church's interior is simple.

You all know that I am always sharing photos of baptism fonts. If you look carefully at the photo above, you will see the font just to the left of the wall hanging in the area to the left of the sanctuary. A closer look:

The font is obviously home-made; it resembles a bathroom cabinet, with a sink placed into the cabinet. It is on four wheels, so it can be moved to a central area in the church for baptisms.

My RCIA presentation went well. The participants were from many of the area's parishes and it was a culturally diverse group. I was so pleased to see people in their 20's present and engaged.

Our next stop was Holy Family Parish in San Jose, California.

Here is a picture I took of the interior.

And then there was the font. I took several photos. This is one of the most substantial baptism fonts I have seen in a parish church in years. Parishioners told me that it took much effort, education, and energy to build this font and for parishioners to "buy into" the concept. It is located in the main aisle, just as one enters the church through the doors.


When I saw this font and remembered the font at Saint Anthony Mary Claret in Fresno the day before, the differences were obvious. When I give my own presentations on the sacrament of Baptism, I often ask people to name the city, state, or country in which they were baptized. Then I make the point that there is one baptism in which we all share, whether or not we were baptized in a small adobe church in South America, or in an outdoor "church" in Africa, or in an ornate baptistery in a cathedral, or in a pool in a Baptist church, or at a small baptismal bowl in a Methodist church. Baptism unites us as one as adopted children of God. That fact struck me as I compared the fonts in a relatively poor parish in Fresno and one in a parish that seems pretty well off in San Jose. Those who are baptized in either font become the adopted sons and daughters of God. Does that mean we should not care about the design and dignity of baptism fonts? No, of course not. But we have to realize that parishes around the world have a wide variety of resources; or no resources, for some. But Baptism happens when the water is poured, or the person is immersed, and the baptismal formula is prayed, and people, in that moment "put on Christ."

That was my "teachable moment" in California last week.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

The portable font seems quite unusual. I always thought that fonts had to have their drains plumbed directly into the ground, like a sacrarium.

KQ said...

Dr. Jerry
I am a lifelong pastoral musician, and hold an MA from BC. Like you,I am a baby boomer; I am also a big fan of baptismal fonts.
You might REALLY enjoy the font at St. Catherine of Siena parish on Belcher Blvd (? I think that's where it is) near
Clearwater, FL.
The new church is a few years old, and the font is stunning; a "bridge" has been incorporated between two upper pool chambers to accomodate the funeral procession. I wish I had thought of it!
Light, and peace

The Rambling Quilter said...

Dear Dr. Jerry, I have been a follower of your blog for quite some time now and especially love your photos of churches around the country. (In 2007 I went to an Art and Architecture in the Church conference in Milwaukee and had a blast touring churches) I especially want to comment on your recent picture of Saint Anthony Mary Claret in Fresno. My parish in Somerset NJ was a typical 1960's gym for the school that was turned into a church - and looks like the Fresno church - I wish I could send you a picture but can't figure out how to attach it here. Simple churches can become homey churches because of the people - the real church - that occupies and shares the space. Thanks for your insight - I love following you! ( Mary-Frances Reavey