I am aware that the issue of infant vs. adult baptism is a divisive one among Christians. We can all come together in unity, however, in that no Christian denomination advocates for toddler baptism. Now I know why.
On the plus side, my son’s college education may end up getting paid for by America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Oh! And here’s a little tip for any converts out there who may have never seen a baptism: there’s going to be a quiz!
Unfortunately, I did not know this. We were standing at the front of the church with all eyes on us when the deacon walked up to me and asked (into his microphone so the whole building could hear), “What name have you given this child?” Between being on the spot in front of everyone and the distraction of fantasizing about having a straight jacket for my three-year-old, I confused baptism with confirmation and thought that we were supposed to have given our son a special baptism name. I was about a half a second from proclaiming something like, “We name this child Aloysius Benedict!” when my husband interjected with my son’s actual name. To my great relief I only looked like a little bit of an idiot.
But the quiz didn’t end there! The deacon then asked me, “What do you ask of God’s Church for this child?” What?? Don’t I get to phone a friend or poll the audience? Narrow it down to 50/50? In the uncomfortable silence that ensued I realized I had to answer, so I thought about just riffing. I was about to announce something like, “I ask that my son serve the Lord in all that he does! I ask that he be a man of deep prayer, humbly seeking God’s will at all times! I ask that–” when one of the godparents mercifly chimed in with the right answer: “Baptism”.
On the way home I expressed to my husband my firm disapproval that our so-called baptism preparation class did not alert us to the answers to these questions. Just imagine how many other people must get caught off guard like I did!
“Uhh, ” my husband replied, “Didn’t you hear the deacon’s speech?”
“Not really, ” I admitted. I’d been off in my own little world, thinking about what new parish I’d like to start going to if my toddler ended up throwing the temper tantrum that he seemed to be on the brink of throwing.
My husband then informed that the right before he walked over to me the deacon closed his speech by saying, “I’m going to ask you what name you’ve given your child. Respond with your child’s name. Then I’m going to ask what you ask God’s Church for this child. Say ‘baptism’.'” Evidently he immediately walked over to me after telling us this — like not even a five second delay. Maybe people will just think that my deer-in-the-headlights response was because I was on drugs or something.
This is why I never leave the house.
Anyway, in a moment of proof that miracles do happen, when the moment of baptism took place my son was calm and still. The child who throws a screaming fit when I rinse his hair in the bath actually let a stranger pour water over his head three times. As I watched the water streaming from his hair into the font I was caught of guard with joy. For a brief moment my nervousness went away and I was filled with immense relief and happiness. It really felt like something big was happening here, like a great cleansing was taking place. I felt peace in knowing that my son’s soul had been permanently marked as belonging to Christ; that no matter what happens — even if I were to die and he wasn’t raised with faith — that he’d always have something deep within him to draw him home, as I did.
Unfortunately that feeling was quickly overshadowed by anger and a few other very un-Christ-like sentiments when my son loudly demanded to play with the baptism candle and threw a fit when we would’t give it to him. He has a new habit of announcing that anything he doesn’t like has been thrown away, regardless of how nonsensical it may sound, so he yelled to the entire congregation that “We THREW all the baptisms AWAY!” As I carried the world’s newest Catholic kicking and screaming into the cry room, I said a quick prayer that perhaps this whole situation will one day add some humor to some volume of the Lives of the Saints.
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