Refugees and Baptism

I offer here a pictorial reflection on the Blessing of the Water (RCIA 222A).


Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs, which tell us of the wonders of your unseen power.

In baptism we use your gift of water, which you have made a rich symbol of the grace you give us in this sacrament.

At the very dawn of creation your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of holiness.

The waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of baptism that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness.

[Pope Francis celebrating Mass on the Italian island of Lampedusa in July 2013.  As Anthony Ruff pointed out at the time

  • the altar was built over a small boat,
  • Francis’ pastoral staff was made of wood recycled from a shipwrecked boat,
  • the lectern was made of old wood with a ship’s wheel mounted on the front,
  • the chalice was carved from wood of a shipwrecked boat (though lined with silver).

According to Genesis, Noah’s boat provided safe refuge to its passengers.  Lampedusa is a stark reminder that some boats are not safe.]

Through the waters of the Red Sea you led Israel out of slavery to be an image of God’s holy people, set free from sin by baptism.

Salvadoran father and daughter who drowned attempting to cross their Red Sea, the Rio Grande, in June 2019.

In the waters of the Jordan your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Spirit.

Pilgrims at the Jordan River, May 2019

Your Son willed that water and blood should flow from his side as he hung upon the cross.

Icon of the crucifixion.

After his resurrection he told his disciples: “Go out and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Father, look now with love upon your Church and unseal for it the fount of baptism.

Baptismal font, Episcopal Cathedral of Philadelphia

By the power of the Holy Spirit give to this water the grace of your Son, so that in the sacrament of baptism all those whom you have created in your likeness may be cleansed from sin and rise to a new birth of innocence by water and the Holy Spirit.

We ask you, Father, with your Son to send the Holy Spirit upon the waters of this font. May all who are buried in Christ in the death of baptism rise also with him to newness of life.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


What does it mean to celebrate baptism in a world where refugees drown? I suspect the answer is in the same ballpark as the meaning of Eucharist in a world where people starve or suffer malnutrition.

We celebrate sacraments not because we do NOT need them but because we so badly DO need them. 

May those who died fleeing hardship be in the eternal embrace of the Just One.  May those who are baptized come to the aid of all who suffer as they seek to rise to a new life.

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