Monday, February 26, 2007

The RC Baptism Liturgy for Baby Lucky

I haven't been Roman Catholic since my conversion in 1975. But, my parents and most of my family is still solidly Catholic by tradition and practice, even if not everyone is devout about it. So, Little Lucky's baptism yesterday was my first attendance at a baptism in about three decades.

They done changed it, huh?

I like the change.

My family grumbled about it. They didn't like the priest, who was on the bossy side, and a bit disorganized. The family didn't know the songs or responses--let's just say most of them don't get to mass except for special occasions.

Here's how it went, this new thing (new to me since the 70's):

1. The baby is received at the entrace to the sanctuary, there's some singing
2. A procession to the Altar of the Word.
3. There are readings from Scripture by the family members.
4. There's a homily.
5. During the message, the priest quizzed the group about the readings.
6. After this there was some stuff over at a table near the baptismal pool/fonts, with two different oils. One now, the other later.
7. Lucky, looking very sweet and well-behaved and adorable, got disrobed and anointed.
8. She got taken over to the baptismal font, where she got dunked three times.
9 Back to the table to get another anointing. The renunciation of the devil and all the traditional Q & A takes place at the table, not before the font as in the old days.
10. Priest, baby, and family gather around the pulpit for another bit of the ritual

Now, backtrack to the Bible pop quiz: I was the only one from my family who was able to answer the priest. That bummed me out.

I have to admit, I've been hearing a lot--on radio this week, the sermon last week--on Biblical illiteracy in the US. I happen to be quite Biblically literate, but then, I've been a believer reading the Word since 1975. If I were illiterate, then, well, that would say something pretty huge about how little I valued Holy Writ.

I'm gonna be honest. I don't understand why folks who don't go to mass/church, don't read the Bible, and don't much give a fig what the Pope or Martin Luther or their local evangelical pastors have to say, well, why do they go through a key church ritual? I know that in this case the father, who is atheist, didn't want to do the ritual of baptism. He submitted to it because the mom and family wanted it done.

Me, I would be embarassed to request of a priest participation in a ritual when I'm not active in the church. In fact, I think I'd be pretty strict if I were the Pope. I'd demand that parents showed up faithfully to church months prior to the baptism and undergo classes to show they knew the basics of the faith that they intended to teach their child, that the baptism was actually the start of a faith journey, and not a social event.

I said to the godfather, "You really should start going to mass. You promise to be a spiritual guide by being the godparent, you know?"

The response was non-committal, flip.

I'm not gonna hold my breath.

I find it odd that one can ignore God for years, yet show up to a sanctuary for a ritual that represents the acceptance of a person into an ancient faith, a ritual in which you promise to live for God, within the Church, and in adherence to apostolic teaching. How can one do this and never crack open a Bible or offer up worship and praise or seek the face of God?

It made me sad.

But it also made me pray. I hope Little Lucky grows up to be crazy about Jesus. I hope her godparents give her good moral guidance. I hope her parents have a life-changing, soul-zapping, fire-igniting encounter with God that will shake up their universe.

I hope the moments in church yesterday have a lingering good effect for all who were there. I really do.

So, there you go. I, a non-Roman Catholic, a gal who doesn't believe in infant baptism as necessary or even correct, and certainly not Biblically mandated or justified, I enjoyed the service and prayed that the acts and words will come to mean more than custom.

Know what else? I think hope is my word for the year. I'd prayed to get my year's spiritual theme. I notice that I've been using this one word a lot in posts and emails and in my conversation. The subject has come up in my thoughts and interactions quite a bit.

Last year, my word was courage.

This year hope. (At least, I'm sensing this strongly so far.)

I'm gonna hope big for Little Lucky and all my family. And that means my church family, too.

Send a latter rain, Father. Clothe us with your goodness, Jesus. Baptize us with fire, Holy Spirit.


1 comment:

Shaun said...

Great blog-- funny stuff, but sooo true!