Let your “yes” mean “yes.” James 5:12
I do not celebrate as many infant baptisms as I used to, but when I do I am still moved by the experience. It is not wasted on me that the symbols of our baptisms and the symbols of our funerals are like the bookends of our lives — water, white garments and candles.
As infants, we are carried into church to have water poured over us, to be dressed in white clothes and to be given a light from the Paschal candle.
At our funerals, we are brought in to have our caskets sprinkled with water, to have a white pall placed over them and to be placed at the foot of the Paschal candle.
In between those two great events, we anoint ourselves with holy water each time we enter the church as a reminder of who we are and where we are destined.
People have their babies baptized for many reasons — some good and some not so good. Some approach baptism as if they are having some kind of “magic” ritual performed to protect the baby from spiritual disaster should anything tragic happen. Others do it simply because it has always been a family tradition that pleases mom.
Most, hopefully, do it because they want to share their Catholic faith with their children and have their children grow up practicing that faith.
The words and symbols of the baptismal ritual are still powerfully moving, no matter how many times I have celebrated the sacrament. I would like to mention a few in particular.
The first question parents are asked is this: “What name have you given your child?”
I find it distressing to hear parents respond with the names of movie stars, the names of planets and the names of seasons, rather than names of the great heroes of the faith — the holy men and women who we call saints.
The second question asked is this: “What do you want from the church?” Once they have answered, “baptism,” they are asked a third question — the most serious question of all, the one that many young parents will lie to your face about: “Will you accept responsibility for training this child in the practice of the faith?”
Implied in that question is a series of other questions: “Will you teach them about the faith and be role models for them through your own example? Will you celebrate the Eucharist weekly and take this child with you? When the time comes, will you prepare them for their first Communion and first reconciliation by consciously and faithfully receiving those sacraments yourselves?”
There is an old Latin maxim worth remembering here. “Nemo dat quod non habet,” which means, “If you don’t have it, you can’t give it.”
Infant baptism makes the most sense when parents are able to answer truthfully and confidently “yes” to the question, “Will you accept responsibility for bringing this child up in the practice of the faith?”
To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog: FatherKnott.com.
Father J. Ronald Knott