One of my favorite features of Apple’s Safari web browser is the “reading list” function. Regardless of which device I’m using, I can add articles to my reading list so that they are saved in the browser and I can revisit them later. The downside to this is that my list of things to read is often longer than the list of things I am reading in a given day. Anyhow, I came across this article some time ago that I wanted to share. The article hasn’t been on my reading list since March, I came across it well after it had been published. While there is little harm in putting off articles on the reading list, the Sacrament of Baptism is another issue.
Over at Catholic Stand, Chelsea Houghton posted, “Letter to Parents about Baptism.” Houghton, a young mother, writes to parents who are delaying having their children baptized. Check out the letter in full at Catholic Stand. Below are a few points that I found poignant and important.
Baptism isn’t just another ceremony, a big fuss of taking your child to church and then having to organize something to have afterwards. The Catechism calls baptism “the priceless grace of becoming a child of God.” Baptism is receiving the grace for salvation.
Baptism is the door through which we pass to enter into the Divine Friendship. Baptism is not a pageant–nor are the other six Sacraments. Baptism is not a ceremony to simply showcase a new child or a reason to have a party. Our Blessed Lord said to his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Baptism changes something–better yet, someone. The relationship of the child to God changes radically at Baptism. Now, with a new identity, the newly-baptized is able to live in such a way that makes him or her worthy of an Eternal Reward.
People often say that they won’t baptize their child but will support them in their decision later on if they choose to go down that route. As a child I received the sacraments later in my teen years, rather than in infancy. I found that much harder than if I had grown up in the faith. It was frustrating waiting a few years, wanting to receive the sacraments that would allow me to greater live the faith I had chosen and conform to the faith of my wider family. It was a struggle to find someone to work with to organise receiving catechesis and then the actual sacraments.
In my few months as a priest, I have heard multiple people tell that they wish they had received the Sacraments as they were growing up. Two troubles come to mind for people in this predicament. First, they come to realize that they are ignorant of basic truths of the faith and even unsure of how to say basic prayers. If their parents had brought them to CCD and lived the faith in their home, this would not be the case. Second, it is an embarrassment for them to be asked to be a godparent only to find out that they are unqualified because they have not completed their Christian Initiation (catechesis along with the reception of Confirmation and Eucharist).
Parents who do not raise their children in the faith because “we want to let them decide,” have all ready decided the faith of their children–that is no faith. The Sacraments do not take away a person’s freewill. For example, one set of parents makes the effort of teaching their child how to play the piano. Another set of parents does not. Which child is more free: the child who knows how to play the piano and can choose not to, or the child who does not know how to play the piano and cannot choose to?
OK, something strong must be said. I don’t say this out of ill will and have no one in particular in mind; I say it because it is true. Parents who fail to rear their children in the faith have failed their children in a big way. I am not saying that a parent is responsible for how a child chooses to live. But, parents have an obligation to educate their children to prepare them to make conscious decisions about the fulfillment of their religious duties. Every person has religious duties because every person was created by God. We cannot opt out of this reality. We can, however, achieve greater happiness by living in accord with the Eternal Law. No one is happier than the saints–in this life or the next!
There is some urgency about Baptism. So much that Canon law says that parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks and if in danger of death, it is to be baptized without any delay.
Ditto. We need to run to the Sacraments, not tarry along the way.
Check out the rest of Chelsea Houghton’s fine letter here.