The night of Easter this year was memorable. In previous years, the pandemic had disrupted the rhythm of liturgical celebrations that included adult baptisms during the vigil. This year, we finally resumed the tradition. Twenty adults received baptism and twelve others, already baptized in other Christian denominations, were received into the Catholic Church and then immediately confirmed. The liturgy of the Easter Vigil lasted four hours, but I did not notice the time passing. According to Don Alfonso, the pastor, who was by no means new to this event, it was the best attended Mass he has ever seen. Perhaps because of the record number of baptisms and admissions to the church or perhaps because of the fear of Covid going away, so many parishioners came, even children, some of whom, toward the end of the celebration, collapsed from sleep.
Each one of the candidates for baptism arrived with their friends and with their godmother or godfather, a representation of that which here is called a “small Christian community” or a parochial group to which they belong. A friendship was born with a few of them. Robert (fictional name) is one of these. He had been brought to my attention by Sr. Elena Rondelli, one of our sisters, who teaches at St. Kizito Technical Institute. Robert, her student, had in fact expressed to her his desire to receive baptism. However, living in a very poor family, he could not pay for the trip from the school to the church. Since another catechism student, Daniel, now baptized, is a motorcycle taxi driver by trade (in Kiswahili: boda-boda driver) and had asked me to help him pay his brother’s school fees, I thought I would kill two birds with one stone: to ask Daniel to pick Robert up and to bring him home afterwards. I would pay him the required fare. This way I could also ensure that Daniel would come to class regularly and on time, whereas before he was always coming late, hunting for the last customer to drive around, since evening is rush hour.
I ask each catechism student to join one of the a Christian groups or communities. I suggested to Robert that he go to the Communion and Liberation group at St. Kizito School. In December, I invited him to participate in the spiritual exercises of the CL university students and since then, he has not missed a School of Community meeting. He even joined the choir. One of his classmates was his godfather. To Sister Elena he confessed, “I never expected that by going to school in St. Kizito, I would meet the Church.”
“Offer your life, for that is the most acceptable gift to God”
For the Easter Vigil, one of the catechists had asked each candidate to bring some food to offer for the procession. Robert had nothing to bring and this worried him. At the end of the celebration, around 1 in the morning, Before going to sleep, I get a message from him on my phone saying, “I have nothing to offer.” I replied, “Offer your life, for that is the most acceptable gift to God.”
I then thought of a song that says, What can I offer the Lord to make him happy? Tell me, what will I offer to the Lord? I could give him my money or various things, but he will not accept them. A humble heart, so loving as to be willing to serve, the Lord will love him. Here, Robert does not have a penny to move from neighborhood to neighborhood or even a package of flour to add to the offertory procession, but his heart is full of love and affection for the Lord and gratitude for the Church. Humble and loving, he attached himself to the Lord like no other.