Cathedral baptism

Ida ended up as a visitor to our home by a circuitous route. She was a Dutch au pair who had suffered in a bad car crash and ended up in an orthopaedic ward in Galway Regional Hospital under the care of a kind and sympathetic surgeon who was a passionate follower of Christ. He was also a trifle shy. He told us once, “I opted for orthopaedic surgery because my patients are asleep when I’m dealing with them. I know I can help them because I’m good with my hands. When I was a kid I made model aeroplanes out of balsa wood.”

The doctor’s bedside listening ear heard that Ida was estranged from her separated parents. She had sought meaning in travel, in occult prophecies and eventually settled for the security of a job in County Galway. Just being in hospital had opened a dangerous door in her mind as she discovered the oblivion of hospital drugs used in operations and began to depend on them. But her longing for acceptance dogged her every footstep.

But she liked the next thing she heard from the surgeon, “Jesus must love you more than anybody else does because he died for you. If you give him your heart he will heal that too.”

Ida made that switch of her heart’s commitment and after she was discharged from hospital she became a twice-weekly occurrence at our flat on her days off. In a mixture of Dutch and English she became a keen student of the Bible. We were a little apprehensive that she would simply transfer her dependence feelings to us. Although we enjoyed her company we told her that most of all she would need to learn to trust God. Her leg did heal, and her heart too, but one day she said that she found that she had reached a plateau in her life and she began to show signs of anxiety.

To complicate matters the father of her au pair family started experimenting in a current fad learned from the RTE’s Late Late Show – trying to contact the dead by electronics. Ida knew that the Bible speaks out quite plainly against this “Don’t let them consult the spirits of the dead”. So she asked one of our group, Ben Mosher, and Pam and me to go out to the house and pray for her protection from evil, which we happily did.

Before we prayed, Ben asked Ida, Have you yourself ever been involved in occultic stuff?” Slowly she said, “Yes” and then began to list all the ways in which she had been spiritually compromised. These included the use of magic charms and going to a fortune teller who had eerily predicted her life, accurately so far, and given her a ring over which she had said incantations.

Ben asked her if she was prepared to denounce these practices once and for all, so Christ would be in charge of every corner of her heart. Ida renounced each item on her list out loud, asked God to forgive her for each and then asked him to clean her life out. Soon she was laughing with a feeling of freedom. After the rest of us went home she flushed that fortune-telling ring well and truly down the toilet.

In a couple of months Ida’s own father got in touch with her and suggested that she return to Majorca, where he lived, and after winding up her affairs in Galway, she left town for Palma – but not before “going public” about her new-found faith. Ida is a strong-minded person and her chosen way to do that was to be baptised to show she had crossed the line to a new allegiance to Christ. She chose me to do the baptising.

The word got out (after all, a baptism is a public occasion) and the morning came when I gladly baptised Ida in the Corrib river, just beside the Salmon Weir Bridge. Not only did the Connacht Tribune newspaper arrive to take photographs but quite a few Galway mothers arrived – when they heard that a girl was going to be baptised they immediately thought it was going to be a baby girl, which had understandably given them some concern. They knew where to find us. You couldn’t miss it – the baptism was directly opposite the Cathedral.

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