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Baptism Gives Holiday Special Meaning

Ritual: Ancient tradition during Easter vigil rings true for converts and people seeking renewal of their faith.

April 12, 1998|LARRY B. STAMMER | TIMES RELIGION WRITER

"Every night I'd come home from work and read. . . . I felt this peace coming over me," she said. "I would fall asleep with the Bible on my heart. I'd wake up a little while later and I put it away and I'd go back to sleep. I went from probably one of the worst days . . . to one of the best feelings within a week. . . . I was able to forgive in a short period of time."

Like many new parents, Swanson wanted to go to services for her children. But, at 34, she wasn't sure how church would fit into her busy schedule and, when Sunday mornings rolled around, it was hard getting out of bed.

But two months after the birth of her second child, who is now a year old, she began reading the Catholic missal, which contains all the prayers and responses necessary for celebrating the Mass throughout the year. Before long, she had read three-fourths of it.

"Everything just started to take a meaning for me," Swanson said. "I was coming to church [and] just really listening to what the pastor was saying and really listening to the homily and really putting my life to the test. I don't know. I started just going through this slow transformation."

At dinnertime, she said, her 4 1/2-year-old son, Robby, would ask her and her husband to hold hands during the prayer. "He started doing it, and now he wants to be read a story in the Bible every night. It's a whole transformation that's just taken place," she said.

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Still, although she and her son would walk up to the priest for a blessing during Communion at church, they did not receive the sacrament because neither had been baptized.

"He was watching everybody else take the sacrament, and he said, 'Mommy, I want some. Why don't I get some?' He asked a few times and I hushed him," she said. "Then I started to think about what he said and I realized, 'That's me! I want it!' And that's why I'm doing it."

For Geuss, Hicks, Reinesto and Swanson, the celebration of their first Easter as baptized Christians is just a beginning.

None believe the road ahead will be easy.

"My life will be different from here on out," Swanson said. "I mean, I have a responsibility not only to me and my family but also to the community and to the people I interact with on a daily basis. . . . Baptism is just the next big step to that new life working with God and volunteering with the community and helping to spread the word."

Geuss, the deputy city attorney--who often defends the Los Angeles Police Department in civil lawsuits--said he had, of course, already been an honest lawyer. But "many people have a hard time being ethical and upstanding when they're believing that what they have to do is represent a client and that they need to be deceitful or lie," he said.

"This [baptism] process has really, I believe, cemented in my mind the right way to go about my life in my profession--to always be as honest and straightforward as I can. If there are only a few, maybe there will be more someday."

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