How the baptism went

September 24, 2007 | 12 comments

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.


  1. Melanie B


    I always cry at baptisms. And reading stories of baptisms.

    You are very brave dealing with the whole issue of baptizing a toddler. I can’t even imagine.

  2. Kiwi Nomad 2006

    The eldest daughter of friends of mine hated having her hair washed and needed two, even three, adults to hold her still for the process. She has since grown into a very composed young woman, and is a registered nurse. Toddlers do grow up, oh so quickly it seems in hindsight, if not at the time!

  3. Jocelyne

    Another good reason to baptise ’em as early as possible! 🙂


  4. cordelia

    my two year said to the priest baptising him, “You’re a bad man,” loud enough to be heard all round the church. it was during a Mass too.

  5. Stephanie

    Lol! Oh man that brings back memories of my confirmation…NO ONE TOLD ME I was supposed to pick a new name!!!!! So here I am, the ONLY person being confirmed (it was a small parish), center of attention, and I’m asked, “What name do you choose?” (or something like that) and I’m like…”Um…Stephanie?” and my Irish priests says, “And…what other name do you choose?” and I look at my husband behind me like, “WHAT is he talking about?!?!?!?” and obviously my panic is apparent because the seminarian pipes up and saves the day by suggesting “Mary.” And I say, “Yeah! Mary…” and Mary it was. And just thinking about that still gets my heart going and makes me red in the face with embarrassment.

    Anyway, CONGRATS to your son!!! 😉

  6. Courageous Grace


    I remember one Easter Vigil service a couple of years back when the poor retired priest on our staff was the one doing the baptizing for some reason.

    With the first candidate laying a bit too close to the wireless mic Fr. Clark was wearing, he pours the water over his head and it goes something like this:

    Fr. Clark: I baptize you in the name of the–

    Baby: WHAAAAAA

    Fr. C: and of the–


    Fr. C: and of the Holy–


    but the kid was quiet the rest of the service.

  7. knit_tgz

    I was baptized as a toddler (I was 18 months old). I did not cry, I behaved nicely until, just barely baptized, my parents put me on the ground and I immediately ran away from the chapel (small private cerimony, just family and the priest) into the garden. Of course they caught me right away! A friend of mine jokes that the wind of the Spirit grabbed me right there and then!

  8. Mojo

    You crack me up!

  9. Abigail

    Hurrah for the new Catholic! When I was a choir member, we were inches away from the parents during the Baptisms. I’d always say special prayers for the mothers of struggling toddlers to have extra grace during the service. Strangely, the Dads never seemed that self-conscious during the toddler antics!

  10. Karen E.

    I love this post — it’s funny and joyful and so real. Congrats on both the baptism itself, and on getting through it with a toddler.

  11. Otepoti

    Hi, Jen,

    I see your Deer-in-the-Headlights and raise you one I-Wish-I-Could-Die.

    I had just presented my twins, my late lambs, for baptism and was about to answer The Questions when I looked down. And realized.

    I had just breast-fed one of them in the baby-sit room and my blouse was open.

    All. Down. The. Front.

    I’ll laugh about this one day. Until then, I’m still biting the sheets, even though the twins are FIVE.

    Feeling better about your Edvard Munch Moment? Good! Some-one should get some benefit from mine…

    Every blessing.

  12. eulogos

    The first time I was asked “What do you ask of the Church for your child” I didn’t know the right answer either and didn’t have the book in front of me. I answered “Faith.” It turns out that is one of the alternate right answers.
    (I am still waiting for God to grant this petition….God, do You remember, he is 35 now….)
    Susan Peterson

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