our constant care

Jan 13, 2013

Most of us have no memory of our own baptism. I was just ten days old when my parents took me to be baptised in the little Catholic Church in Otematata. It was a priority for them that I be baptised. 

As soon as my mother and I were discharged from the hospital, my father drove us home via the church where Fr. Reg O’Brien had agreed to meet us. There, in a ritual as old as Christianity, I was baptised with water “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 

The ceremony was dignified, and every word was taken from the ancient rite. The only people present were my parents, my godparents, one of my grandmothers, Fr. O’Brien, and me. 

I am sure we went back home afterwards for a cup of tea and scones. I probably just slept after such a big day. It is significant that even before I entered the home of my parents, I had entered the home of God. 

From all outward appearances, my Baptism would have been a simple occasion since the emphasis was not on the human celebration of friends and family. The emphasis was on what God was doing for me. God was initiating me into His divine life. 

In the 50+ years since this moment, I have enjoyed many wonderful experiences. I’ve been a part of some great celebrations. There are many times when I have been aware of the presence of God with me in joy and in pain and grief. But still, the greatest moment of my life to this point, without a doubt, took place on 10 September 1961 in a small town on the banks of the Waitaki river. It was on that day, in a simple and brief ritual, that God marked me as His child. On this day, my eternal life began. 

It is always a privilege for me to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism as a priest. While the norm for Christian Initiation is for the baptism of adults, most often it is parents who bring their young child to be baptised. Some of these parents I know well since they are an active part of the life of the parish. Others, while not at Mass regularly, know that Baptism is essential if their child is to live a fully human life. 

I use the word “essential” here intentionally. Even if parents never bring their child to Mass after the Baptism, the sacrament has still effected a life-giving change in the child, and the child will benefit. 

However if the grace of the sacrament is not cultivated by the action of the parents, (especially in weekly attendance at Sunday Mass), the grace is at risk of becoming the seed planted in stony and dry ground. 

A number of parents comment that they do not bring their babies or small children to Mass each week because it is difficult to keep them still or quiet. Then when they do bring their child to Mass once a year at Christmas, the child may find it difficult to be still or silent. This is simply because the child has not been taught stillness and silence.

Good parents give a priority to teaching their children to eat their greens, stay in bed at bedtime, and to be respectful of others. It is good parenting to stay with these tasks even when there is opposition from the child. 

How much more important then for parents to ‘make it their constant care to bring their children up in the practice of the faith’ as they promise at their child’s Baptism.

+++

If you are a parent or godparent of a baptised child, at the baptism you answered each of these questions on behalf of the child.

First the celebrant questions the parents:

Celebrant:

What name do you give your child? (or: have you given?)
Parents: N.
Celebrant: What do you ask of God’s Church for N.?
Parents: Baptism.

The celebrant speaks to the parents in these or similar words:
You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?
Parents: We do.

Then the celebrant turns to the godparents and addresses them in these or similar words:

Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?
Godparents: We do.

Dear parents and godparents: You have come here to present this child for baptism. By water and the Holy Spirit he (she) is to receive the gift of new life from God, who is love.
On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring him (her) up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives him (her) is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his (her) heart.
If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized.

The celebrant questions the parents and godparents:

A. Celebrant: Do you reject Satan?
Parents and Godparents: I do.

Celebrant: And all his works?
Parents and Godparents: I do.

B. Celebrant: Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?
Parents and Godparents: I do.

Celebrant: Do you reject the glamor of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?
Parents and Godparents: I do.

Celebrant:Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?
Parents and Godparents: I do.

Next the celebrant asks for the threefold profession of faith from the parents and godparents:

Celebrant: Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
Parents and Godparents: I do.

Celebrant: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
Parents and Godparents: I do.

Celebrant: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
Parents and Godparents: I do.

The celebrant and the congregation give their assent to this profession of faith:

Celebrant: This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
All: Amen.
The celebrant invites the family to the font and questions the parents and godparents:
Celebrant: Is it your will that N. should be baptized in the faith of the Church, which we have all professed with you?
Parents and Godparents: It is.

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