It was a kindly old priest in Coke bottle glasses, a matter-of-fact French Canadian servant of God with no desire to act as Grand Inquisitor. But his simple, basic questions did the job they were intended to do: They let us know that this was real, this was serious, and our responsibility was not going to go away.
Today, I hope to get caught up on emails. I’m sorry to say I pretty much gave up responding to anyone sometime in the third trimester, and Corrie is now 9 weeks old, so that’s . . . a lot of emails. So if you wrote to me, thanks for being patient!
We’re right in the middle of “something every weekend” season — confirmation, baptism, birthday parties galore, graduations, concerts, and a bunch of things I’m forgetting.
Thank goodness we have no athletic ability in this family. We did a few months of T-ball one year, and now we’re all fine, thanks.
We told everyone the baptism was after the 11:15 Mass, so our families left early and rushed around to get there in time (some are several hours away). So 12:15 comes and goes, the church empties out, and I’m sitting there with the baby in her gown, thinking, “If I got the day wrong, I’m going to sink into the ground.” My sister-in-law already took an extra day off a few weeks ago because we told her the wrong date, and the week after that, we told my mother-in-law the wrong location for our daughter’s confirmation!
So I grab the pastor, and he doesn’t know, but he says he thinks there’s first communion practice, but baptisms are usually at 1:00. He texts the deacon, then leaves on an emergency call. The kids go out to the the playground, the first communion class wanders in, I get even more nervous, not least because there is about forty pounds of lasagna slowly drying out at home, and who will eat it if there’s no baptism? Then the deacon rushes up and I grab him, and he says yes, there is are four baptisms, today, but who are all these other people? I tell him about the first communion class. He works out an arrangement with the DRE, and I marvel that they are able to coordinate everything.
He says darkly, “Sometimes, it doesn’t get coordinated.” So the upshot is, pray for our deacons and priests and catechists! Even if they had an easy job spiritually, which they don’t, the sheer logistics of getting everybody sacramented up is going to kill them.
Here are a few pics of the baptism and one of Uncle Joey and the cousin jubilee on the trampoline afterward. Sorry they’re stuck together! I’m gonna leave them like this, rather than fight with the computer for another forty minutes. Happy rebirth day, dear baby!
Not the little guy who just kicked me for the first time, that I could feel, just yesterday (yay!). I mean the other one, the one I lost. I wrote about how hard it was not to have a body to bury. You want to be able to take care of your children with your own hands, but I couldn’t do that, and it hurt.
Now, as the months have gone by and the pain of loss has receded, I still find myself bewildered about what to do with the baby’s soul.
When I found out I was pregnant last time, I prayed for the baby’s protection constantly, and turned him over to God. So I have a strong hope that, whenever it was that he left us, he was already baptized through our desire and intention to do so, and he went straight into the arms of his loving Papa in heaven. This is a good thing! I am not worried. I love him, but God loves him more.
But, what to do when I pray for my all children, one by one? I was never sure when I got to this child. It didn’t feel right to pray for him. Even though I know no prayer is wasted, it seemed like asking for something that was already given.
And I know that many parents pray to their lost unborn babies, and that seemed reasonable, but felt odd, too. Probably this shows that I have a poor understanding of the saints in heaven, but praying to him felt like turning him into a spiritual being, which made him foreign, elevated beyond the family, not really our kid; and at the same time, it felt like too much to ask of such a little guy. I’m not going to tell my five-year-old when Daddy is having a hard time at work or Mama is worried about school; so why would I spill the beans to a seven-week-old fetus, even if he is enjoying the Beatific Vision? I know, I’m over thinking it, but it just felt weird!
But yesterday, it came to me: Baby, you pray for the new baby. You two hold hands and be good to each other. Take care of each other while Mama is taking care of the rest of them. Aha! Everybody needs a job. We are at our best when we know what we are here for.
I don’t trust you to save me from sin if you can’t even bring yourself to say “sin.”
In which I remind us all that baptism is a beginning, not a trophy for winners; and in which I briefly long for an icon depicting Christ the Sneaker-Upper.
I wish I had worked this in, but do yourself a favor and read Max Lindenman’s short little jewel of an essay, “Catholics Do Not Throw People Away.”
Zachariah, Tom Neal, and Delmar all learn that sometimes we do not have bigger fish to fry.
Here’s a dreadful little story: Russian couple faces jail time after taking their injured baby to be baptized instead of treated.
A couple in St. Petersburg, Russia is facing charges for failure to assist a person in danger after taking their injured baby to church, instead of the hospital.
The two-month-old baby had sustained a head injury in a minor car accident, Russian news outlet RIA Novosti reported, despite the fact that he was in a car seat. He died by the time he was in the priest’s hands.
The parents took him for an emergency baptism because “otherwise he would be denied the Kingdom of Heaven,” the parents told authorities, according to Fontanka.ru.
Please note that this is an extremely short story with almost no facts in it. Did the parents realize, or could they be expected to realize, how badly injured the baby was? How much time did they lose by stopping at the church? Would it have made any difference if they had gone straight to the hospital?
Whatever the answer to these questions, it’s a good opportunity to review few facts about infant and emergency baptism:
Almost anyone can perform a baptism. It is preferable to have a priest or deacon perform a baptism in a church, but if there is an emergency, anyone with the right intention — that is, anyone who wishes to do what the Church does when she baptizes — may perform a baptism. This means that if your baby is in the ER, you can do a baptism in the hospital sink, or with a bottle of Aquafina. It also means that a pagan nurse who doesn’t know anything about baptism, but is willing to respect the beliefs of the parents, can licitly baptize a baby.
This is how you do it: Pour plain water over the person’s forehead while saying the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
We don’t actually know what happens to babies who die unbaptized. Baptism is necessary for salvation. Yet the catechism says:
1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
The Church fully expects us to care for the immediate physical needs of people around us. Again, we don’t know the details of the story above, but in general, life-saving medical procedures should not be postponed!
One final note: emergency baptisms are for when someone is in danger of death. “I don’t think my daughter-in-law will ever get around to scheduling a baptism” or “My neighbors are wiccans and someone needs to care for their poor baby’s soul” do not constitute emergencies, and sneaky baptisms performed on children on the sly are not licit.