Thinking about Baptism
Shortly after becoming Pope in 1978 John Paul II made an historic visit to his homeland. His pastoral journey took him back to his roots – his native parish where he had been born and raised. There he was pictured in a small, remote rural church gazing prayerfully into an old stone baptismal font. The caption underneath told everything -’This is where it all began.’
As parents, family and friends you are rightly rejoicing this day in the birth of your child. God has blessed you with the precious gift of a child of your own. Now you want nothing short of the best for him/her. In presenting your child for baptism you are formally requesting his/her entry into God’s family. The local Christian community or parish is God’s family as far as each of us is concerned.
The belonging that we celebrate in Baptism, psychologists say, is everyone’s goal. Baptism offers the challenge to the Christian families and communities of creating ways to welcome and walk with everyone, including strangers, people of diverse backgrounds, and those whose mistaken sense of their identity leads them to seek belonging through inappropriate or destructive behaviour.
Giving birth is said to be an experience, parenthood a way of life. One passes, the other never ends. It is like that with the sacrament of Baptism – the conferring is an experience for your child, the sacrament never ends. And you are part of the sacrament, the major part. You strengthen them for life.
You are waiting for the Holy Spirit to come to your children. You also bring the Holy Spirit to them.
You are like Mary with the apostles, waiting in prayer and expectation for the first Pentecost. All because you want your child to be the best he or she can be! If you could choose, would it be a doctor, teacher, a student or would you go further and ask for ‘happy’ ‘thoughtful’, ‘decent’ ‘honourable’, ‘wise’ kind, ‘thoughtful’?
Is your ultimate desire that he/she be something or a certain kind of person ? This is an occasion for asking questions about your values the things you consider important.
Baptism is parents day too. All the gifts you wish for your child you need for yourself. Over the next number of years you will need an abundance of wisdom, understanding, right judgement, courage and so on.
It is a scary time. We are told often enough it is a terrible world. But fear is a pre-baptism word – your children are not afraid. Don’t frighten them. Prepare them. Innoculate them. Arm them. Strengthen them and support them.
You have much to offer your children, parish and community. This baptism time is an occasion for reviewing your relationship with God and with your community.
Don’t underestimate the power of example. – doing the right things, going to mass and passing on the faith.
Remember what they say about rules. They are laid down in childhood, flouted in adolescence and re established in adulthood. Faith is like that too.