The Trinity can seem so far removed from us. As little children our teachers may have used the three leaves of a shamrock to help us understand, “one God in three Divine Persons.” The Trinity is a mystery, but that doesn’t mean that our awareness of the Trinity needs to stop with the shamrock. Even though we can't understand this mystery, it is highly “practical,” meaning it has a very profound effect on how we live our life. I’d like to share with you a few stories I have encountered regarding the Trinity in our life.
I met a woman once who was born in Nazi-controlled Germany. Her uncle was a bishop in another part of the country. When she was preparing for marriage she asked her pastor for a copy of her baptismal certificate. When he went to the parish files and pulled out the original, he was startled when he read the formula that was written there. “Anne,” he gasped, “you were not baptized. Look at this.” He showed her the original certificate worded: Ann Schneider was baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Adolph Hitler!”
Baptism is the key which opens for us the door to the immense graces available in the other sacraments. With the pouring of water and the praying of the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” we are claimed by and united to God—the Holy Trinity. Anne, in our story, immediately called her uncle and requested to receive the sacrament of Baptism. He made sure she was baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Making the Sign of the Cross often is a great way to thank God for our baptism and to remember the Holy Trinity in a very personal way. A bishop whom I knew from the Midwest advised making a habit of dipping our fingers into the holy water font as we entered a church. He suggested praying this simple prayer as we bless ourselves: In the name of the Father who created me; and of the Son who redeemed me; and of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies me. Amen.
I remember a powerful story I heard in a homily at a Sunday Mass on an Alaskan army base. The chaplain related one of his experiences which put the sacrament of Baptism in a whole new context for me. The priest had served as a chaplain in the conflict in Vietnam. The platoon under Father’s care was about to engage the enemy in a heavy gunfight. Crawling on his belly through the mud and grass, the priest moved from one man to another. If a man was not Catholic he prayed the Lord’s Prayer before he moved on. To the Catholics, Father offered Jesus in the sacred host. When he reached José, a young Hispanic soldier, Father lifted the host. The young man hesitated, “Father, I never made my first Communion.”
The chaplain asked, “Do you know what this is?”
“Yes,” came the reply. “It is Jesus.”
Father continued his story, “I gave José his first Holy Communion. Before I could reach all of the men, enemy fire broke out. The first casualty was a direct hit to José.”
Almost 20 years after his baptism, José received Jesus as his viaticum—his companion on his final journey to the Father.
Celebrate Trinity Sunday this week-end in gratitude for the gift of Baptism by which the grace of God secretly works in us and for us, and which will one day usher us into the Life which never ends—our sharing in the Father’s creative goodness, the Son’s work of redemption, and the Spirit’s ongoing work of making us holy.
Sr. Mary Peter Martin, FSP