Sunshine is getting baptized on Sunday. We’ve invited family and friends, found her a christening gown, planned a party afterward. Yesterday my husband noticed that I had my Catechism in the stack of books that I’m reading, and asked why. I said I was reviewing; I wanted to be sure I knew what we are requesting for Sunshine when we take her to church on Sunday. Our priest exempted us from the usual baptismal preparation course because I went through RCIA last year and my husband spent a year and a half of discernment in seminary. The priest figured we knew our stuff; I wanted to make sure he is right.
I remember my own baptism. I was about eight at the time, as my parents had bounced between a couple adult baptism churches before settling at a Lutheran church. Shortly after they joined, they told my brothers and I that we were going to get baptized. I’m not sure I completely understood what was happening; I’d probably seen babies baptized before, but I wasn’t going to question my parents. I also remember standing at the front of the church, and the feeling of the water running off my head. My godparents gave me a silver necklace with a little dove, and a Precious Moments Bible.
In university, I took two courses on Martin Luther and what he taught. Conversations with a Catholic friend of mine had caused me to question what I believed – or rather, to ask whether I believed what the church that I was attending believed. I was curious in particular about why some churches baptized infants and others adults. Did it matter? I wrote one of my best papers on what Luther had to say about the topic, arguing that he showed the significance of God’s work through baptism for salvation in faith. While Luther disagreed with the Catholic Church on many issues, I think he held onto what the Church taught about baptism.
What happens on Sunday will not be the work of my husband, myself, or the priest – it is the work of God. Through water He will wash Sunshine’s sins away and make her His child, thereby saving her. And yet that gift of salvation is only hers if she will receive it in faith. That is the scary part: the promises that my husband and I will make to teach her all that her baptism means. Of all the things that we have to teach her as parents, faith is the hardest. It is making me rethink my own faith life and whether I will be able to model what I believe for my daughter. This is about more than just knowing the answers; I must also live them.