All around the world last night, people celebrated the Easter Vigil in their own parishes, each in a unique way, bringing the different gifts, talents and ethnic identities that are integral to that community. Our celebration of the Vigil here at St. John the Baptist in Joliet lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes... but really I didn't think to look at my watch until about the 2-and-a-half hour mark. As usual, the readings, ritual and music were so engaging that it felt like time outside of time. the Vigil Mass was bi-lingual - with all texts in English and Spanish either in a mixed or both format - so naturally it takes longer to do this well. But we never worry about that. And apparently neither do the people in the Assembly, who were with us all the way.
The Gospel was read in both languages, the homily delivered first in Spanish, then English, and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises was also in both. Everyone in the room seemed engaged in the action - they joined in the songs and acclamations with enthusiasm - and most went back to the font for the baptisms and to bless themselves with the water while the neophytes dressed.
Last night we baptized two English-speaking adults and a baby - whose grandparents are Spanish-speaking - a sign of where we have been and where we are going - into a future where even more children born here will have a dual heritage. A reality in which increasingly the children of the parish will grow up speaking English, but still have one foot in their Hispanic devotional and liturgical tradition.
One of my favorite moments last night was a sure sign that it "took" - the newly baptized mother of the baby was in tears afterwards... no doubt tears of joy. Those of us baptized as adults can only imagine the power of those emotions. The smiles of everyone in the room when the newly-confirmed were asked to turn around and "face your friends" for the welcoming applause were proof that the love of Jesus Christ brings us together.