I was baptized in the Roman Catholic church when I was 8 years old (the same day that my wife was born — pretty miraculous coincidence there, methinks).
My baptism happened later than a lot of other kids in the Roman church. When I was a kid, I didn’t know why I wasn’t baptized earlier. I still don’t. I assume that it was because, though he always identified as a Christian, my dad had a very cynical view of the church. He didn’t trust clergy people.
But I do know why I was baptized when I was. It was because my mom had been diagnosed with cancer around that time. She had a hunch that she may not live as long as she would’ve liked to live and she wanted her only son to be baptized.
There was a certain season in my life — long after my mom had passed and I’d drifted away from the Christian church — that I held a cynical view of baptism, much like my dad. Especially when our daughter, Rory, was born…
I thought baptism was the church’s way of taking a tainted soul and cleaning it. I couldn’t get behind the notion that our daughter — this perfect little miraculous and innocent soul — was tainted in any way. In fact, I took offense at the very notion of baptism.
This caused some animosity with my Roman Catholic in-laws. Our refusal to baptize Rory lasted until several years later when a few lovely people explained to us the intention behind the ancient rite and we started to soften to the idea. (My anthropology of the human soul has lowered quite a bit since then.)
In the fall of 2018, we baptized Rory in our Lutheran congregation (she was 5). It was the most beautiful event I could ever imagine. A lady pastor washed her head with water and anointed her with oil encircled by a loving community of people who raised their hands toward her while recognizing her perfection in God and chanting a creed that was almost a couple of thousand years old (with some minor revisions since).
I’ll close with a few words about baptism from one of my favorite writers, the late Fr. Robert Capon for you to reflect on…
The grace of baptism, therefore, is quite fittingly referred to as habitual grace (from ‘habit’ as in ‘a nun’s habit’) because we wear it, all our lives long, as an irremovable vestment of forgiveness. Accordingly, the church’s creedal teaching seems to be that no matter what sins we commit subsequent to baptism, every last one of them is committed inside an effective suit of pardon that we can neither lose nor undo.
– Fr. Robert Capon
As I type out this quote, I realize there’s language about ‘sin’ and ‘forgiveness’ in there — words that most of us modern folk recoil from (and for good reason). I’ll go into all of that tomorrow. Until then…
Grace & Godspeed,
P.S. I believe that we’re all baptized in God’s love at birth. Therefore, it doesn’t change God’s mind about us when we’re baptized in the church. But it does change our minds (if we’re older) and the minds of our family and community. And even infants — I think there’s a visceral internal shift that happens when we’re baptized. I believe that a real blessing occurs under those waters.
This post was previously published on Grace Incarnate and is republished here with permission from the author.
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