This past Friday at St. Rose of Lima Parish, at the conclusion of Catholic Schools Week, I had the great privilege of baptizing Adeline and Tatum. [Editor’s note: See photos on page 2.] It was a special joy for me to share this moment with the parishioners and students of this parish. It was also the first time I used the new English translation of the Order of Baptism for Children. I have been officiating at baptisms for over 30 years, but I was very inspired by the new translation of the texts. I thought it might be good then to share with you some of the texts which stimulated my further reflection on this Sacrament of Initiation.
(1) The Welcome
Dear parents and godparents:
Your family has experienced great joy at the birth of your child, and the Church shares your happiness.
Today this joy has brought you to the Church to give thanks to God for the gift of your child and to celebrate a new birth in the waters of Baptism.
This community rejoices with you,
for today the number of those baptized in Christ will be increased, and we offer you our support in raising your child in the practice of the faith.
Therefore, brothers and sisters,
let us now prepare ourselves to participate in this celebration,
listening to God’s Word, praying for this child and his (her) family, and renewing our commitment to the Lord and to his people.
I was touched by the joy and giftedness of these words. Their description of the child as a gift of God and how this moment has an impact on the entire community put me in touch again with the idea that the living out of our faith in God is not a “private” thing, but a “living” gospel for all people to hear.
(2) The Questioning of the Parents and Godparents
(A) In asking for Baptism for your child, you are undertaking the responsibility of raising him (her) in the faith, so that keeping God’s commandments, he (she) may love the Lord and his (her) neighbor as Christ taught us. Do you understand this responsibility?
(B) Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty?
In my mind, these questions have a clarity that helps parents and godparents alike to know their charge in regards to the handing on of the faith. It is not just a matter of saying, “Yes,” but even more the obligation to show our young people what a living faith looks like by demonstrating it in their own lives. As Jesus himself teaches when asked, “What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?”: “If you would enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:16-17).
(3) The Prayer of Exorcism
Almighty ever-living God,
who sent your Son into the world
to drive out from us the power of Satan, the spirit of evil, and bring the human race, rescued from darkness, into the marvelous Kingdom of your light: we humbly beseech you
to free this child from Original Sin,
to make him (her) the temple of your glory, and to grant that your Holy Spirit may dwell in him (her).
Through Christ our Lord.
You might be surprised that I included this prayer as one of the texts that stirred me, but I find it to be a beautiful catechesis of the meaning of Baptism emerging right from the Gospels and the accounts of John and Jesus baptizing. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I… He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3:11). As we face the sin and evil in our world today and the darkness which accompanies it, I am comforted and strengthened by the promise held out to of us a greater Kingdom in which sin and death and darkness have no reign.
(4) The Instruction to the Renunciation of Sin and Profession Faith
Dear parents and godparents:
through the Sacrament of Baptism
the child you have presented
is about to receive from the love of God new life by water and the Holy Spirit.
For your part, you must strive to bring him (her) up in the faith,
so that this divine life may be preserved from the contagion of sin,
and may grow in him (her) day by day…
Two images that are exceptional in my mind is the “love of God” that is at the heart of this Sacrament and the need to protect “this divine life” from the “contagion of sin.” Can anything make it clearer what is involved when we are baptized and what can threaten the gift given to us?
(5) The Anointing after Baptism
…He now anoints you with the Chrism of salvation so that you may remain as a member of Christ, Priest, Prophet, and King…
Here we find the beautiful image of anointing that is meant to signify our dignity in God’s eyes and to strengthen us in living as a member of God’s family in His Church. Each one of us has been consecrated by God to be his son and daughter. What should this say in the lives we lead and the words we speak?
Not my usual column, but I thought at a time when we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, it might be good to reflect upon a similar event in our own lives and all that it tells us about our relationship with God.