Basilicas and Baptisms


This isn’t quite my dream baptismal font.

It’s so close it isn’t even funny.

A few years back sitting on a beach in North Carolina I sketched the underside of a pier, turned the page and drew my ideal baptismal font. It was cross shaped and you could walk down in it – and here’s a deviation from the photo – to be completely immersed. The fountain would be the pierced side of Christ – deviation number 2. Feel free to kidnap this idea and say it was your own – it might even have been.

When two people try to solve the same problem with similar backgrounds you always end up with similar solutions.

This font sits in the back portion of the Basilica de St. Francis in Santa Fe, NM.

One of the true ironies of the Franciscan order, or any order with a strict vow of poverty, is the sheer quantity of money donated to it. Most of this capital finds its way to the poor and the disenfranchised, but some donors specifically want to dedicate something beautiful to the order.

I don’t judge these orders for this whole process – the money percolates through the local economy from metal workers to quarry miners and craftspersons.

On top of that, this font is a thing of beauty.

It’s placed near the entrance – to be the gate way to joining the body of Christ.

It’s cruciform – cross like – to hint, suggest, flavor all baptisms in the light of the crucifixion.

It’s always running, always there, to call the fugitive, the sinner, the runaway back into the home of the cross.

You have to leave some symbolism to the mind of the beholder, to that little part of us that asks questions. Why four pillars with Crosses? What’s on the metal gate? What carvings are on the font? Why this particular shape of Cross? Why the octagonal surroundings?

Each part speaks like the verse of a poem: visually offering footholds for our thoughts, our spirits, and our actions to grab a hold of and make what we will out of. It’s not about the poet or the builder or the designer, it could be. We could spend time looking for their intent, or we could move on and see where their intent or their acts impacts us at our experience and we find that part of us that makes meaning.

This font speaks to you about your baptisms and the baptisms held here. But it speaks in hints and clues and flavors that are subconscious or background until we tease out the meanings for ourselves for our own hearts and lives.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
This entry was posted in Practices of Faith, Theology and Philosophy, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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