My first experience of sacrament was, quite literally, all a blur. My parents brought me for baptism when I was 3 months old. Vision gradually improves over the first few months after birth, but my eyes probably weren’t much better than 20/80 when I was carried to font. Ophthalmologists call that “partially sighted.” Yet that is considerable development from newborn days. Standard eyesight for a newborn is horrendous: 20/400 vision is standard. At three months, babies can recognize shapes and objects and they begin grasping for the objects they see. That explains why I was fixated, as I am told, on grabbing my grandfather’s ears after he lifted me out of the water. Head wet and ontological change conferred, grace came over me and all I could see was the blurry outline of an earlobe.
When I am attentive to my beginnings, I discover meaningful events from the past that disclose interpretative pictures for the future. From the sacrament of life given to me on August 20, 1978 (my birthday) to the date of my baptism three months later, vision improved and I slowly discovered the world into which I was born. From birth, sight depends on a process of physical maturity begun in infancy, progressing from blindness to partial sight to full visual acuity. At three months, I was unable to trace all that happened at the font. From my grandfather’s priestly hands dipping into the font, the pouring of sacramental water over me, the presence of all my family surrounding me, I was unable to recognize all those present, to track the sacramental motion coming towards me. I was baptized at an age where babies possess “partial sight.” My physical condition then speaks to the spiritual condition I’ve known ever since.
As I write these words aged 33 years and 3 months, I’ve spent the last 33 years maturing in this spiritual stage of partial sight. I am immature and see very little. I will spend the rest of my life on earth in this middle stage of partial sight. “For now I see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Much of what I see is opaque, yet I recognize grace moving in my direction every day.
Georges Bernanos’ summarizes his masterful novel, The Diary of a Young Priest, with a powerful statement that inspires me to begin a blog that searches for God’s sacramental presence all around. “Grace is everywhere,” Bernanos writes. For all that is seen and unseen, I pray for the transformation of vision so that I might grow into the likeness of Christ. I’m not sure what kind of shape these blog posts will take. I’m open to the varied twists and turns that an act of discovery requires. But that ongoing discovery of the beauty of the Lord is “the one thing needful.” Eugen Rosenstock Huessy stated “a man writes a book to survive.” I might modify that statement for my own purposes and say that a man writes anything at all so that he might see the living Lord more clearly.