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The Absolute Best Part About Being Catholic

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As the pastoral planning initiative Beacons of Light moves forward, Catholic Telegraph writers are meeting with its leaders to bring you the most up-to-date and accurate information, describe how decisions are made and clearly explain what to expect. Visit beaconsaoc.org to sign up for the free Beacons Update newsletter.

Nothing is more terrifying than believing your child might die.

My knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel as I wove around cars on the road. These people innocently going about their business with no urgency didn’t know my three-week-old son had a blood infection. They didn’t know that if we couldn’t get him treated at Children’s Hospital right away, the infection could travel to his brain and kill him in just a few hours.

A thousand things were happening inside me: Fear, anger, despair, sadness. But there were also really practical thoughts like: Who is going to watch the other kids while we are at the hospital? I need to tell my work. I need to call my parents. What’s the fastest route to Children’s? Where do I park? How do I remain strong for my wife? And, of course, all of that was wrapped up in desperate, wordless prayer.

And little Ezra wasn’t baptized yet. I grabbed my phone to call a priest to meet us at the hospital… but I had no one to call. We just moved to Cincinnati. In our old city, there were a dozen priests I could call who would drop everything to be at the hospital for us. But we were in a new town, and I didn’t know what to do.

I had one friend I thought could help. He is passionately Catholic and a Cincinnati native. He answered on the second ring. I frantically explained the situation, my voice cracking under the weight of sadness and fear. He understood quickly and said, “Alright, don’t worry about this. I’ve got it.”

There was a priest waiting for us at Children’s Hospital when we arrived.

He waited patiently while the hospital processed my son, and
– when the moment was right – baptized him in the exam room. I let out a deep breath and squeezed my wife close to my side as we looked on. A moment of grace in the middle of chaos. Father stayed for a while. Very quiet. Rosary in hand. No advice. No words. Just a powerful presence of prayer.

Today Ezra is going on his fifth birthday, a healthy, happy, rambunctious little boy with no sign of after-effects from his infection.

When you hear the word “Church,” what comes to mind? For many, it’s a combination of buildings, a priestly hierarchy, an institution like a parish or school… maybe even the Pope!

When I hear the word Church, I think of people. My youth ministers in high school, who helped me encounter Christ for the first time. My best friend, who gave the first invitation to Church and continues to call me deeper in holiness. The seminarian my wife and I met in Rome on our honeymoon, who showed us the best place for gelato even though we were strangers. The priest who baptized Ezra in the hospital. The deacon we met on a mission trip who gave up working on Wall Street and moved his entire family to serve in Haiti after taking to heart the command, “Go, sell all your possessions and give them to the poor. Then come follow me.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “In Christian usage, the word ‘Church’ has three inseparable meanings: the People who God gathers in the whole world; the particular or local church (diocese); and the liturgical (above all Eucharistic) Assembly.” The Church is people. We think about it in different contexts and geographic locations, but at the end of the day, it’s the people. The assembly of the people of God doesn’t change. Location, time period, traditions, customs, leadership… that all changes. But wherever the Church has been at work in the world, there have been wonderful people radiating Christ to those around them.

November is a month of gratitude, so this month is a great time to recognize and be grateful for the people God has gathered in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati: from our neighborhoods, to our parishes, to our region, to the entire archdiocese. With a 200-year history of wonderful people coming together to love and serve others and share the Good News, while some things will change because of Beacons of Light, but many – the most important things – won’t. And the absolute best part about being Catholic – the Church itself – will always be there to radiate Christ.

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