My son was baptized today, the first Sunday of Lent. This was a different experience for me than my daughter’s baptism two years ago. At her baptism, which was during the Easter Vigil, I can remember thinking, “I know this is special. I know this is supposed to mean something.” I tried to cherish the moment, but in all honesty it was lost on me.
Although like at any other organized group event I was flustered and my head was spinning, I approached Chris Jr.’s baptism with a more secure knowledge in what was actually going on. I knew what we were asking for when we asked the priest to baptize him, and I wanted it this time. All this mad research I’ve been doing since beginning blogging has been invaluable to get me to this point.
Take, for example, my post on grace and free will. In summation, the Catholic stance on these matters is that we can do nothing without God’s help. We cannot even turn to God without His grace, yet we can at any time reject His grace in our lives by our own will. So if you apply the concept of our utter dependence on God’s grace to a baby, you see that it doesn’t matter that they can’t make the decision for themselves, because they can’t turn to God of their own power anyway. Also, the Catholic affirmation of free will, that we can turn from God and indeed lose our salvation and fall from His grace, silences the protest that a baby’s fate has been decided for him.
The Catechism has rather powerful language to describe the event. Baptism is a sacrament in which the grace of justification is conferred. The gift of faith is given gratuitously by God through no proceeding merit on our part. Through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit on the water, the baptized are “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). We die to this sin and are given new life in Christ (Rom 6:3-6). Sins are washed clean through faith in Christ and by His merit. All sin is forgiven (Acts 2:38), including personal sin and original sin, that sinful nature into which we are born. We are made to belong to the body of Christ. For babies, baptism means original sin is washed clean and they are imprinted with God’s gift of faith, with the mark of those who belong to Christ.
I don’t pretend that I can fully wrap my brain around such things. The nature of a sacrament is something completely foreign to me. But it is wonderful to be able to appreciate my son’s baptism and the real grace of God in his life.
We can ask for God’s grace of faith for our child, wash clean the stain of original sin, promise to bring him up in the Faith, and graft him into the body of Christ, with this simple sacrament. Why would anyone not want to give these things to their child? So without reservation, I made the sign of the cross on my son’s forehead. I affirmed the Faith, and promised to bring him up in it. I asked the priest to baptize him. And I watched, as he was washed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, made into a new creature and a little man of God.