Happy Re-birthday to Me!

Last week I celebrated an anniversary of some significance, at least to me.

Not my birthday. Not my wedding anniversary, which my wonderful wife of over 47 years (wow!) and I celebrate in November.

Here’s a hint: In Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, the plot turns on a paradox. The hero, Frederick, was in his youth apprenticed to a pirate. (Which was an error, of course, the result of a failure to communicate; he was supposed to be apprenticed to a pilot.) He detests piracy, but his sense of duty compels him to complete his apprenticeship term at age 21. Unfortunately (SPOILER ALERT) his apprentice contract was poorly written, to end on his 21st birthday. But (SPOILER ALERT) he was born on Leap Year Day, Feb. 29, and only has a birthday every four years. So, he still has sixty-plus years to go. (If you haven’t seen or read the play, you really ought to.)

Anyway, last Saturday, the Feast of Saint Matthew, was the anniversary of my baptism and confirmation into the Catholic Church; my Second Anniversary. (That’s right. It took me almost seven decades to figure out where I belonged. I’ll bet it didn’t take YOU that long, dear reader.)  My re-birthday, if you will.

I can therefore paraphrase Frederick, singing:

“Though counting in the usual way,

Years seventy-one I’ve rocked and rolled.

Yet counting from my re-birth day,

I am a little two-year old.”

[Sorry about the “rocked and rolled”; I am not a very good poet.]

It is a strange and wonderful thing to be both an old man and a young Christian; aged in years but youthful (even childish) in the faith.

So if you see me around town, feel free to wish me a Happy Re-birthday. (A friend in college once received a birthday card stating “It’s my birthday! Buy me a beer!” He wore it pinned to his shirt for weeks, gradually hitting every bar in town.)

 

Note: Saint Matthew is not only my patron saint, but also that of (among others) tax collectors. This is based on the tradition that he was one himself.  That may be why I have a soft spot for him and them. For over a decade the union I worked for represented the state Department of Revenue workers (i.e. tax collectors), and a more honest, decent, and friendly bunch of folks I have never met. It bothered me then and it bothers me now that the gospel readings so often besmirch them as the exemplars, the quintessence of sinners.

I know that the tax collectors of old were inclined to be as crooked as a dog’s hind leg, and so they deserved their infamy. But now, with the high standards prevailing among their modern descendants, we ought to clarify things. The term “tax collector” should always be preceded by the word “corrupt” or “crooked” or some other appropriate clarifier. Or maybe substitute another word altogether, like “ganef” (Jewish for crook).

I have looked for but never found an Association of Christian Tax Collectors. If you know of any ACTC out there, please put me in touch with them. Something should be done! Attention must be paid!

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