In making the preparations for our third daughter’s baptism my husband and I were challenged on our beliefs about the sacrament and necessity for infant baptism.
Our baby’s baptism brought with it the culmination of several manageable, but timely, stresses in our lives. Since Easter we’ve had a baby, moved to another city, joined a new parish and my husband wrote and defended his graduate thesis, received his master’s degree and started a new job. Also in that time we did some genetic testing on our newest family member and learned she shares the same genetic condition as her daddy.
Although thriving, it is necessary for our little “Laney Bug” to have some testing this week at the Children’s Hospital involving putting her under. For us, this meant she must be baptized before her testing and the clock began ticking on getting a baptism on the books.
We were met with some opposition and questions about why she had to receive the sacrament before her tests.
At first, I was extremely bothered. In fact we were outright angry someone dare question our wishes for our child. We are the parents of this beautiful child and thus all spiritual intentions for her are our responsibility, which we accept with joy.
Ironically, that’s a big part of baptizing an infant – renewing our own baptismal promises and committing to our community, and our Lord, that we will do our very best for our child to carry the light of Christ in her heart and be a faithful member of the body of Christ. It’s why I cry like a baby whenever I witness a baptism.
I expressed these views and was asked to just admit that this was an “emotional issue” for my husband and I, not a sacramental issue. In the end, it boiled down to me being asked this question:
“Do you, in your heart of hearts, really believe that your beautiful, innocent baby girl would not be welcomed into God’s kingdom if she were not yet baptized upon her death?”
I skirted past the question and we gave our reasoning for our intentions. We shared Church teachings and decided to disregard the opinions of others and set up the baptism. However, just because something is right doesn’t make it easy.
We struggled with the disappointment in how our third daughter would not have the same baptism experience as our first two. There was no party. In fact, there was no family. We were given an 8am mass baptism a week in advance and both of our families live over 3 hours away. We decided not to invite anyone or throw together a party. The whole thing had already been too stressful.
Amid this disappointment it was difficult to look forward to our daughter’s baptism this week. That question I had been asked was haunting me. It had struck a chord deep in my heart.
The truth is, I don’t really know what I believe would happen to my daughter were she to die before she were baptized. I know what my Church teaches me, but I also know I am a mother and my love for my daughters goes to ends of the earth. Doesn’t God’s fatherly love for us goes even further?
One may be baptized by blood, water or even intent is some cases. And, as long as someone is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they’ve been claimed for Christ.
I however, feel as if I’ve just been baptized by fire. I’ve been baptized into a renewal of my own faith and baptismal vows. My mama bear instinct kicked in. In protecting my young I was forced to question my Father. Would He protect me as a mother and offer me comfort by welcoming my child?
Through much prayer and discussion with my husband I came to this:
I don’t know what would happen to my daughter should she die before she was baptized. Just as I don’t know what happens to anyone who does not live their earthly life as a member of the body of Christ.
But, I DO KNOW what WILL happen to her if she is baptized into the faith. Our daughter will be re-claimed for Christ and welcomed into Christ’s kingdom.
Because, even when she’s not with me, I need to know where she is. I am a mother.
Copyright 2011 Holly Rutchik