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Baptism: Step One of Our Faith Journey
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

Beginning the Journey
An Ongoing Commitment
For Teens: A Baptismal Checkup
For Kids: Splish, Splash

Last month, my family and I celebrated the Baptism of our daughter Riley. In many ways it was a second chance to celebrate her birth. Just a few months earlier she had been born into our family, joining my husband, Mark, and I and her sister, Maddie, and brother, Alex. Now she was being born into a much larger family—the family of the Church.

One thing I’ve become very aware of as I’ve grown up and had kids is that Baptism is one of those sacraments that, unfortunately, sometimes people do just because they think they should. And I can certainly understand why. I remember being taken aback when I heard that a couple I knew were not going to have their child baptized.

I remembered that the parents were no longer active churchgoers, but I was so accustomed to everyone I knew having their child baptized that it felt odd. But then I reminded myself that, in fact, Baptism is about much more. There’s a real purpose behind the sacrament.

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Beginning the Journey

Baptism is the first step on a very long road of faith. Perhaps that’s what I find exciting about the Baptisms of my kids. It’s a beginning—and who knows where it will lead or how the journey will play itself out?

The Sacrament of Baptism is one of initiation. And who doesn’t long to be a part of something really special? But since Baptisms are usually performed on infants, they can’t really agree to join the Church. That’s up to the child’s parents—and godparents. It’s their job to make sure that the child being baptized is given the knowledge and shown through word and example how to live out his or her faith while growing up.

Baptism is also jam-packed with symbols of our faith—water, oil, candles, a white garment. Each of these symbols has its own special meaning.

The water, for instance, is probably the symbol most people associate with Baptism and represents a number of things. It is a sign of cleansing us of Original Sin, and also represents the source of life.

During Baptism, blessed oil or chrism is marked on the forehead and chest of the person being baptized in the sign of the cross. This symbolizes receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Even though most children being baptized wear a white gown or outfit, they also receive another white garment during the ceremony, which signifies “putting on Christ.” My children received garments hand-embroidered with a cross by someone in the parish. The personalized touch always reminded me that the white garment was a welcome gift from a member of our parish family.

The baptismal candle is lighted from the Easter candle and reminds both the baptized and his or her parents and godparents to be light for the world.

An Ongoing Commitment

So while Baptism is only the first step on our faith journey, it’s a very big and important first step. Here are ways you can continue to celebrate your initiation into the Church:

• Send a note to or call your godparents every year on the day of your Baptism to thank them for agreeing to be your godparents. Likewise, if you are a godparent, make an extra effort to send your godchild a note or call on special days to let your godchild know you are always thinking of him or her.

• Celebrate the Baptism of everyone in your family. Have a special dinner or recognize the day in some way.

• Make an effort to attend the Mass whenever your parish performs Baptisms. After Mass, congratulate the families and welcome their children as the newest members of the parish.

• If you’re preparing to have a child baptized, give a good deal of thought to choosing your child’s godparents. Don’t feel that you automatically have to choose family members. Neither of my godparents were relatives and they turned out to be wonderful role models and mentors for me regarding my faith.

• Look through your photo albums and talk to your kids about their Baptism. Did they wear a special gown? Why did you choose the people you did to be godparents? What did it mean to you to have them baptized? Who attended? How did you celebrate afterward?

• If you are a godparent, pray for your godchild and reflect on the type of faith example you are setting.

Next Month: Lent's Wake-up Call

 

For Teens: A Baptismal Checkup

For most of us, we were baptized when we were infants and, therefore, weren’t capable of agreeing to all that our Baptism called us to do. But as we grow, and become aware of our baptismal call and what it entails, it’s a good idea every once in a while to check on how we’re doing fulfilling that call.

Take some time to stop and reflect on how you’re living out your baptismal promise. Are you an active member of your parish? Are you living out your faith? In what ways are you doing so? If not, what can you do to improve?

Talk with your godparents. Ask them questions about their faith lives and how they can help you with your own. Ask your parents about their decision to have you baptized. What did it mean to them? What does their own Baptism mean to them?

For Kids: Splish, Splash

Water is a very special part of Baptism—and life. Stop a minute and think of all the things for which we use water: drinking, bathing, cooking, swimming and many more. Try to make a list of as many things as you can think of that you use or need water for. When you can’t think of any more, ask family members or friends for suggestions.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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