Yesterday at Mass, a baby was baptized into the Catholic church. This was the first time I had seen a baptism at our parish, and I was oddly moved by it.
Flora was the only child to attend Mass with me yesterday. During the baptism, she leaned against me to watch the proceedings from our pew.
“Did I cry when I was baptized?” she whispered.
I told her I honestly didn’t remember.
The little baby kicked her feet during the christening and anointing. I was reminded of spending the day after each of my children was baptized leaning over to smell the chrism on their little heads.
I watched the parents, a young couple — “young” being a relative term; they are probably in their 30s, maybe late 20s. They beamed with pride and hope.
I, too, felt a measure of hope and pride. Hope because a church that is performing public baptisms is a church that can continue to grow and thrive. And pride because in the face of the challenges that the church faces, these parents decided to stand up and declare their dedication to said church.
I don’t think that Christians or Catholics in America are under siege the way some far right religious people might feel. There’s no “war on Christmas”.
At the same time, I do think it takes a certain amount of bravery to stand up and declare yourself among friends and family who may have different religious or spiritual beliefs.
I’m not a great Catholic, but I am a practicing Catholic, and I make no bones about it. I’d like see the Vatican change the policy about ordaining women; I miss Mass sometimes, usually on Holy days of obligation during the week; I don’t know my catechism by heart by any stretch of the imagination. I am a creed Catholic; that is, everything that is said during the Nicene creed, I believe, wholly. Although I do wish they would change that part about “for us men” and just say “for us.” I leave off the “men” when I pray the creed aloud in church.
And I also believe and try to practice Jesus’ first commandment, which is simply, “Love one another.”
I was excited to see that these parents and godparents were happy to participate in this child’s baptism. I wonder if they get questioning looks or snide comments from friends or acquaintances about their faith. Conversely, of course, I wonder if they married in the church and are baptizing their child in the church because of familial expectations. (I didn’t get that sense from them. They were *beaming* during the ceremony.)
I think Pope Francis has introduced a freshness into the public Catholic face, and I couldn’t be happier that he is the leader of the church in the world. But the things that he preaches are not new to us practitioners of the faith. It’s a relief that the focus is being taken off of sexual ideology, and the conversation is once more focused on loving *and serving* each other.
I know that sometimes people think we faithful are judgmental, or old fashioned, or stuck in the past, or irrational. (Granted, some religious people are any or all of these things.) But the church is a living breathing organization of real people as well. The people in the church, from the Holy See on down, are imperfect, thus the Catholic church is imperfect. But we’re trying. The best of us (and I don’t necessarily count myself among the best) are trying to live and serve God, and bring the message of Jesus to everyone.
On Christmas Eve, I tweeted:
One of my friends marveled that they make faith so hard. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, unless she was speaking about faith as a set of rules to follow — which is not how I think of my faith. I find my faith very freeing. It’s not difficult for me to be a person of faith. Although, again, I am not a great Catholic.
Looking at those parents holding their child as the priest performed a baptism, I was heartened. For the Catholic church, as well as for my parish. They truly gave the sense that participating in the sacrament was a joy, not a chore. And I hope that more Catholics feel joyful when it comes to their faith than don’t.