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Friday, March 16, 2012

Baptism and babies

Baptisms, even though the process of faith and conversion is essentially an adult experience and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is now the norm in the Catholic Church. So what does all of this mean for those infants? 

Obviously, infants cannot respond immediately to the call/response aspect of the sacrament. Nor can an infant understand the change of allegiance, the putting off of the old and putting on of the new, the dying and rising, the new life, or the sharing in the life of Christ. However, the parents of those infants can understand and live those values and pass them on to their children. They can also experience the support of the community in living those ideals, and that is extremely important.

Infant Baptism only makes sense if parents are true Christian disciples. If they are not, then it makes little sense to initiate their children into a Church which calls for a commitment to living the mission of Christ.
The Rite of Baptism for Children emphasizes the importance of faithfulness on the part of parents when it says to parents: In asking to have your children baptized, "you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith." That word practice is crucial; it calls for Christian modeling on the part of parents.

Considering the future orientation of Baptism and the fact that we are marked for a lifelong journey of discipleship, it is important that parents be strong role models and lead the wayIt is equally important that the children's sponsors (godparents) do the same. They are significant supporters of parents and the ones who can first begin to reveal to their godchildren the value of the Christian community.
Children learn to be Christian by osmosis, by experiencing Christianity at home. The "domestic church" prepares children for the local and world Church. It is in the home, in the domestic church, that children first learn basic trust which is the foundation of faithWithout the experience of faith, hope and commitment in the home, children will not be able to know and understand the larger Church. 

Vatican II's Declaration on Christian Education points this out quite emphatically: "Since parents have given children life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied when it is lacking....It is particularly in the Christian family...that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship him and to love their neighbor." 

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