What Catholics Believe - Chapter Fifteen

Baptism: Becoming a Christian

As parish catechetical leader, I prepared second graders for the sacraments. The parents of one boy (David) who attended the parish school were not Catholic and never had David baptized.

After the celebration of confirmation / first Eucharist, David came running with several of his friends shouting, "Ms. Oakley, they say I'm not Christian! Tell them I am too a Christian!"

Halting in front of me, his friends declared, "Being a Christian means you're baptized with water in Jesus' name and he wasn't." With the children defiantly waiting, I feared my answer could isolate David even more. I prayed, "Holy Spirit, help."

“David,” I asked, "What is a Christian?" He answered, "A Christian is someone who loves Jesus with his whole heart, and I do!" I replied, "Then in your heart you are a Christian and when you are older ask for baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist so you can show the world you are a fully initiated Christian!" Beaming, he proclaimed, "I told you I was a Christian in my heart!" His friends looked puzzled by my answer but all agreed David should be baptized someday and skipped away.

On Sunday, as I touched the Holy Water at the entrance to Church making the sign of the cross, I thought of David and gave thanks for my own baptism. I pondered how I could share with his parents that “Baptism is the door to life and the Kingdom of God” (USCCA, p. 195).

Arriving at church early, I sat quietly, reminiscing about the joy our family experienced at the baptisms of my nieces and nephews. Remembering the white garment and candle given to the candidates indicating they had put on Christ and have risen with Him. Being clothed in Christ means we are protected by Love and are asked to carry the light of Christ unstained into the heavenly kingdom. The godparents held the candle a little higher at this invocation and call to holiness!

The readings from Scripture were so appropriate as I realized the efficacious Word of God enlightens our minds and hearts with God's revealed truth, enabling our family for each generation to respond in faith.

Being anointed with the chrism oil and hearing that we are now united with God's people remaining forever a member of Christ, who is Priest, Prophet, and King, gives us a purpose; to go and bring others to Christ with word and example! "Incorporated into Christ by baptism, we are configured to Christ and sealed with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation” (CCC, no. 1272).

Therefore, everyone being baptized is asked to reject sin and Satin, and profess faith in the Triune God. In the case of infants, parents and godparents with the whole liturgical community do this on the child's behalf. When we bless ourselves with holy water upon entering church, we actually recall our own baptismal promise to avoid evil and reject sin in our lives. This blessing continues the promise of baptism to protect us from evil when we ‘cling to Christ’ (Pope John Paul II). How powerful this gesture could be if we think about its meaning in our lives today!

We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism equipping us fully with the virtues needed to bring us and all whose lives we touch back to heaven. Therefore, David's friends worried that he would never reach heaven. Their fears were based on their still growing knowledge of God's love, power, and mercy. Holy Mother Church assures us with this principle: "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of baptism, but he himself is not bound by the sacraments" (CCC, no. 1257).

Desire for baptism was implicit in David's proclamation and we need only hope that one day he will make his desire explicit through the reception of the Initiation Sacraments. I still pray for him.

Mass began nudging me out of my daydream about David and his parents. Providentially, one reading was from St. Paul: "Put on, then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another. If one has a grievance against another, as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:12-13).