Have you ever been really, really thirsty, with
the kind of thirst where you'd give just about anything for
a tall glass of cool water? Following a hot practice session
of soccer or basketball, have you ever felt bummed out, tired
and in need of a shower?
Or after a sunny day at the pool, have you found
yourself burned and needing the relief only a soothing ointment
Have you ever had your self-confidence lifted by
a new outfit that made you feel like a new person?
Hold these memories! This Youth Update invites
you to an understanding of a sacrament you probably celebrated
as an infant. Chances are you don't remember. Your recollections
of times when you've been thirsty, dirty, in need of ointment
or of a new outfit will help you appreciate your Baptismfoundation
of all the sacraments and of your life as a Christian.
This Youth Update reviews how your Baptism
was celebrated in hopes that you will better understand what
it means to say you were plunged (dramatic, but true) into
the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You will also
be challenged to plunge anew into life as a baptized believer.
The word baptism means to "dip" into the
water (quite a contrast to dipping either chips or tobacco).
Your parents, godparents and parish community acting on your
behalf dipped you into the very life, death and resurrection
of Jesus Christ. As a baby, you couldn't object to such an
awesome and life-changing commitment.
Today, as a teenager, you probably don't want your
parents to choose your friends, your clothes or your movies.
Yet your parents, godparents and parish community chose the
most important thing of all for you: Baptism. They marked
the name of Jesus Christ on your forehead forever, claiming
you for Christ! This marking is permanent, unerasable. They
chose this without your approval or consent.
What's in a Name?
Your name: How important is it to you? I suspect
you care just a bit. You like to see your name in the school
newspaper, getting credit for your accomplishments. You're
proud when your name lands on the academic honor roll. You
also demonstrate how important your name is when you seek
to have a "good name," protecting it from being used in a
bad way or in an unfavorable place, such as the police log
in the newspaper!
Because your name is so important in the celebration
of Baptism, it's the very first question to be asked of your
parents: "What name do you give your child?" Indeed the name
given you at Baptism is the one known to the Christian community
of which you became a part, and the name by which you are
known to God.
Names matter to God who knows us each by name. The
baptism of Jesus was met with the words, "You are my beloved
Son; with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11). The first ritual
at your Baptism was the giving of your name.
Once you had a name, your parents and godparents
promised that your Baptism would be lived out and that they
would show you by their own lives what it meant to be baptized.
Their promise made, you were welcomed with real
joy. The priest or deacon presider claimed you for Christ
by tracing the cross on your forehead. He invited your parents
and godparents to do the same. You were marked with the cross
of Jesus and marked forever as belonging to him.
Back in the first century, St. Paul wrote: "Are
you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were
baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through
baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from
the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in
newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).
Telling Our Stories
Are stories important in your family? As a child,
you may have enjoyed opening each window of an Advent calendar
to recall a story which prepared you for Christmas. Perhaps
your family has a tradition of recalling the story of Christmas
as you set up your crib scene each year. You might still enjoy
telling scary stories around the fire at summer camp. Today,
you might be among the millions of teenagers who are hooked
on the stories of Stephen King or Mary Higgins Clark.
Stories are so essential in Christian life that
the celebration of every sacrament requires storytelling.
The telling and retelling of the stories is called the "Liturgy
of the Word." Those who assembled for your Baptism listened
as the stories were told, the Scriptures proclaimed.
The readings for the celebration of your Baptism,
like all Scripture, recalled God's faithfulness in the past,
connecting this to God's promise of faithfulness to you. The
God of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David and Jesus became your
Those called upon to support you and be with you
included important saints like the Blessed Virgin Mary, St.
Joseph, Sts. Peter and Paul and your own patron saint. These
friends of the Lord began pinch-hitting for you from the first
moment you were baptized. They continue to inspire you, pray
for you and support you.
Next followed a prayer asking God to set you free
from Original Sin and to make you a temple where God will
live forever. It was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
the very death and resurrection you were about to be plunged
into, that freed you from Original Sin.
Original Sin can best be understood as our being
separated from God. Such an unhappy state was not for you!
Your parents and godparents and the gathered community, in
plunging you into the waters of Baptism, immersed you in the
very life of God.
After a day in the sun, have you ever found your
skin burned and in need of a soothing ointment? Or perhaps
you like to use aftershave or body lotion. These items protect
our skin and make us feel and smell better.
One of your first experiences of this was when you
were anointed with the oil of catechumens. This is the special
oil blessed by your bishop at the cathedral during Holy Week,
the week when the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord
is recalled and celebrated. You were anointed with this oil,
with prayers that Christ would strengthen you for your journey
Water, Water Everywhere
Maybe you've participated in an autumn sport that
required demanding preseason training under a hot and sweaty
August sun. If so, you know just how incredibly thirsty a
person can get. The waters of Baptism can satisfy your spiritual
In John's Gospel, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman
at the well that "whoever drinks the water I shall give will
never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a
spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14).
Those assembled to celebrate your Baptism were reminded
that, at the dawn of creation, the Spirit breathed upon the
waters. They recalled the great flood in the Noah story and
the Passover event when Israel passed through the waters of
the Red Sea. Many powerful New Testament passages use the
image of water: the baptism and anointing of Jesus in the
Jordan and the flowing of blood and water from the side of
the crucified Christ on the cross.
The Holy Spirit was called upon the waters in which
you would be baptized with the plea that you who are "buried
with Christ in the death of Baptism rise also with him to
newness of life!" This water is often held in a font,
which not only means the type designs used in this publication,
but also the place where baptismal water is held.
The role of your parents and godparents is so important
that they were asked a second time if they would be
an example to you of what it means to live the life of a baptized
believer. On your behalf, they renewed their own baptismal
promises, rejecting sin and professing the faith of the Church.
Then a third time they were asked if they desired for
you to be baptized. With this yes, you were immersed or poured
over with water three times, baptized in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All Dressed Up and Ready to Go
Just as Christ was anointed priest, prophet and
king, so were you anointed once again, this time on the crown
of your head with chrism. Such a royal anointing required
royal clothing! You had become a new creation in Christ and
were clothed with a white garment, a sign of your new status
Have you ever had your confidence boosted by a new
outfit? At Baptism, you were clothed in Christ! This new white
garment was placed on you with the words: "With your family
and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity
unstained into the everlasting life of heaven."
After you were decked out in your white outfit,
newly washed and anointed with the finest sweet-smelling oil,
your father or godfather lit a candle for you from the Easter
candle, that great symbol of the risen Christ whose life you
now share. A great hope was expressed: May you always walk
in the light of Christ and keep the flame of faith alive in
As a great climax, you were presented to the gathered
assembly as their newest member and you were probably welcomed
with enthusiastic applause.
For most Catholic teenagers, your baptismal ritual occurred when
you were an infant, before you could say yes on your own.
Hopefully, your parents, godparents and parish community have
followed through on the promises they repeated three times
to support you on your journey of faith, especially by good
example. But now you are a young adult and it's up to you
to say yes to the life of Christ into which you were plunged
You were not brought to the waters of Baptism alone
but came already connected to people who loved and cared for
youyour parents, godparents and parish community. You
need mentors and elders, people you can trust and respect
and who can guide you along the way. As a child, you probably
saw a parent, neighbor or older brother or sister as your
hero. Teachers, coaches and Scout leaders gave you the mentoring
you've needed as well. As mentioned earlier, you have the
example of the saints, especially your patron saint, to be
your guide and role model.
You may be among the fortunate who've had godparents
who have taken their responsibilities seriously and been a
source for you of support and strength. But if you haven't
been close to your godparents, why not start now?
Your godparents represented the entire Christian
community. They were significant as you began your life in
Christ. As a young man or woman, you can now make an effort
to connect with them. You might begin with a simple thank
When you were baptized, your parents, godparents and the Christian
community welcomed you with great joy. They decided to give
you the greatest gift possiblethe gift of Jesus Christ.
With continual love and support, living your Baptism is now
up to you. There's an old question, "If it were against the
law to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict
How can you tell if you are living your Baptism?
It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that holds both the challenges
and the answers. Do you turn the other cheek? Do you pray
for your enemies? Are you willing to forgive over and over
again? When something is demanded of you, do you offer even
more than what was originally expected? Are you fair and just?
Are you willing to die and rise over and over again? Are you
a source of peace and hope for those who know you? Are you
willing to ask for forgiveness and try harderagain and
These are tough questions which lie at the heart of what it means
to live out your Baptism, to be plunged again and again into
the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.