What Keeps Me Catholic? — Baptismal Reminders
It’s a sight that fills every cradle Catholic with dread: Walking into church for Mass the first few pews are not only filled, but nicely dressed people are seated in them. Trouble. Something’s not right. Looking more closely the culprit is spied—a baby. Infant Baptism. Are you kidding me? Mass is going to be ten to fifteen longer than usual now. As I’ve come to experience over the years, in addition to the extra demand of time, this is also what keeps me Catholic.
Some years ago, a community embraced me in faith and, with God, graced me through the waters of Baptism. In a world hardened by sin, God’s people said, “Follow us in discipleship. We will show you the way to Jesus.” Then, like Jesus in the Jordan being baptized by John, I heard God say to me, “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” Finally, like all good Catholics, this sacred event was celebrated with a party.
Honestly, I don’t remember any of it.
Baptisms at church let me live it all again however. More importantly they allow me to recommit and renew my faith in Jesus. Knowing that we can’t make it on our own, those who preceded us in faith are invoked in the Litany of Saints: Mother Mary, Michael the Archangel, Joseph the Worker, Mary of Magdala, and the list goes on. Our response, and how could it not be, is “Pray for us.” Baptism reminds me that I need help and offers the rich resource of the saints.
I’m especially struck by the Baptismal Promises or, better said, Questions. Theologically illiterate as I was as an infant, my parents and godparents gave assent to them on my behalf. Now, when I hear them, the challenge of practicing the faith is placed on me.
Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?
Do you reject the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?
Do you reject Satan, the author and prince of sin?
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
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?
With the support of a faith community, I am encouraged, strengthened, and enabled, sinner that I am, to say, “I DO.”
With people making power plays of all sorts, Baptism also reminds me that, in God’s eyes, we are all equal. Through the grace of Baptism, prejudices due to ethnicity, race, sex, age, orientation, and wealth are washed away. Radically so.
Pope Francis, referring to the Sacrament of Baptism, recently and emphatically said: “’This tells us that no one is useless in the Church—no one is useless in the Church!—and should anyone chance to say, some one of you, ‘Go home with you, you are useless!’ that is not true. No one is useless in the Church. We are all needed to build this temple. No one is secondary: ‘Ah, I am the most important one in the Church!’ No! We are all equal in the eyes of God. But, one of you might say, ‘Mr. Pope, sir, you are not equal to us.’ But I am just like each of you. We are all equal. We are all brothers and sisters.”
How our Church and world need baptismal reminders. They’re what keep me Catholic.
Daley is freelance writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School.
This column originally appeared in the October 2013 edition of The Catholic Telegraph.