Today the Catholic Church welcomed a new member...our goddaughter Julia Elizabeth.
I have participated in the baptism of five of my own children (soon, six) and the baptisms of our six godchildren, so I can attest firsthand to the beauty of this sacrament. In addition to being greatly moved by the baptisms of those I am close to, I am also the one in tears during the Easter vigil mass, when people I don't even know die and rise again in Christ.
At today's reception, Julia's father referred to baptism as a mystery, and truly it is. We know from scripture that a baptized person belongs forever to Christ and, through this sacrament, receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We know that baptism takes away original sin. We don't know how and we don't know why, but we believe it to be true.
Jesus was baptized by John at the very beginning of his public life. Did Jesus need to be washed clean of original sin? Of course not. He did it as an example for us, to show us what he expects of us. Later, he explicitly told his disciples to go forth, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt that Jesus asked us to do this. So we do it, joyfully and faithfully, even without perfect understanding.
Many people do not comprehend why infants should be baptized, since it is not their conscious choice but that of their parents. To me, infant baptism is all the more beautiful for just this reason. When Joey was baptized, I cried through the whole ceremony. The priest stopped and asked me why I was crying since it was a joyful occasion. I explained it was because I realized that God had given me the great gift of my child, and that now I was giving him back to God. For whatever reason, the simple truth and beauty of this act moved me to tears of joy. I was quite sure that God would take care of this child that was all His, and that He would give me the grace to raise him on His behalf. Baptism is my promise on behalf of my children. I promise I will raise them to Christ and He seals them as His own. The children will make their own promises later, when they are confirmed.
Isabella will be baptized in three weeks. (I will be needing a new tube of waterproof mascara.)
Welcome to the church, Julia Elizabeth. We will do everything we can to support your parents in raising you to know and love God. You will be forever in our prayers.