The Promise Made At Baptism

I received a comment Friday about baptism being the “high point of the whole birth experience.”  I could not agree more.  Because baptism cleanses the eternal soul of the stain of original sin, it is the Glorious culmination of everything that has happened since that eternal soul was fused into the baby at conception; it is the new birth of the eternal soul into the Body of Christ.  Every time I have had my babies baptized, I have felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to our Lord for instituting the sacrament.  
I have written before about the fact that Sarah’s baptism was the catalyst prompting Craig and me to dive in and learn more about our Faith.  However, with every child, it has only intensified this desire for me.

On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring her up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life, which God gives her, is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in her heart.

During Sarah’s baptism, it was this part of the Rite that commanded my attention and consumed my thoughts in the weeks that followed.  I was literally afraid of what I’d committed to.  I was afraid because, at the time, Craig and I still missed Mass fairly regularly.  I was afraid because at the time, we were not fully in Communion with the Church regarding our family planning decisions. 

How could I keep my daughter safe from the poison of sin, when I was mired in it, myself?

Sarah’s baptism holds a very special place in my heart because my heart softened and opened in order to desire to be closer to God through His Church.  I will be forever grateful for this.  With the rest of our children’s baptisms, this part no longer struck fear in me. 

This part of the Rite of Baptism continues to command my attention but for different reasons.  It provides me an opportunity to take stock of the state of my soul and whether I am in a state of Grace or not.  When did I go to confession last?  Have I been going as often as I should?  What other sins are prevailing…Vanity?  Pride? 

Vincent’s baptism brought on a new revelation.  I was prepared for what I’ve already described…the gratitude, the awe, the Grace.  This time my ears perked up to a part that hadn’t seemed to cross my radar before.

If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized.

What I wasn’t prepared for during Vincent’s baptism was this part about, “if (my) faith makes (me) ready to accept this responsibility…”

Whoa.  Wait a minute.  Is my faith strong enough to impart to my child?  The Rite of Baptism, lays the responsibility squarely on the parents and godparents.  “IF YOUR FAITH MAKES YOU READY TO ACCEPT THIS RESPONSIBILITY…”  
Is it not a leap of faith in and of itself to accept this blessing of a new child into our family?  But then our Church asks us to have the utmost CONFIDENCE in that faith.  So, it’s not just faith we must have, but we must have CONFIDENT faith?  
I often think of the passage (and being the “good Catholic” that I am, I can’t tell you the book or verse to find it in the Bible) where the disciples ask Christ how they can increase their faith (or maybe they simply ask Him to increase it directly, not sure).  
I feel like those disciples on the day of one of my children’s baptisms.  I want to ask the Lord to increase my faith and to give me the utmost confidence in my faith that I can accept the responsibility of raising my child in the faith.   
Truth be told…I’m scared that I don’t have what it takes to keep these children on the way to Heaven.  Sure, I have some faith.  I’m doing my best to know and practice my faith in accord with Christ’s teachings.  I’m praying with my children before meals and before bed and every now and then we’re getting a rosary in.  We’re getting to Mass every Sunday and sometimes a day or two in between Sundays.  We try to attend prayer groups, adoration and Feast day Masses.  But sometimes I am scared that it won’t be enough.  Sometimes, I am scared that I have faith, but I am not confident enough in that faith.
And so, I am struck by the awesome responsibility Craig and I have undertaken by cooperating with God to bring Vincent (and all my children) into this world.  
I give myself a little pep talk to remind myself that God also imparted some pretty crazy-fantastic Graces on Craig and me in the Sacrament of Marriage.  Those Graces are supposed to help us in this endeavor to raise our children to know, love, serve and fear the Lord.  
I also try to remind myself that the Sacrament of Baptism imparts some crazy-fantastic Graces on Vincent that can help fill in where Craig and I might falter.
And so, consolation descends as I am also reminded that we are not alone.  Christ instituted these Sacraments to give us the strength and wisdom and fortitude we need to do what He asks of us. 


Unfulfilled Expectations

About the only thing I remember about the time of year when my parents informed us of their impending split was that it was winter.  I can’t remember if it was Christmas break or if it was just some other winter day.  I remember it was cold.  I remember that my father was stationed with the Navy somewhere really far away (as in, not down the street where I could see him all the time).  I also remember that I still had really long hair, so I must have been in 2nd grade, which means I was 8.  

All of us kids were on the floor sitting “Criss-Cross-Applesauce” as they call it these days.  Back then, they called it “Indian Style”.  I think my mom might have been holding the baby.  This would have been around 1982, so my baby brother would have been about 19 months or so.
The word DIVORCE fell like a bomb.  Oddly enough, my older brother seemed completely ready for it and acknowledged it as if it were a foregone conclusion that this is what was going to happen.  But me?  Tears flowed quickly and ferociously…and I remember thinking…wondering…would he say next that I was going to go with him?  I would sure miss my sisters and brothers, but surely I was going to stay with my Daddy.
But those words never came.  I don’t know if my brother asked what was to become of the children or if my parents just moved right into that part, but it was made clear that we would stay with our mother.  I didn’t understand.  Why would I stay with my mother?  Didn’t my dad want me?  I mean, I didn’t understand why he’d leave at all…but surely (in my 8-year-old brain) he couldn’t bear to just leave me there?!?!
I don’t remember anything else about that particular day.  It’s very hazy.  It’s probably best that I don’t.  I’m sure there was a lot of crying from my mother.  I think I was probably in some sort of state of shock.  I don’t remember feeling angry necessarily…just very confused and very unsure and maybe a little bit rejected and unloved.  I don’t remember if I hugged my sister that was old enough to process what was going on (she was 6) or if I hugged my brother.  I really only remember sitting there, wondering why I wasn’t going with my dad.
I started seeing a therapist through Catholic Charities about three years ago.  My reason for starting was because I had all these pent-up, unresolved feelings about what happened to my Dad and to me.  I realized through talking it out that what I suffered was abandonment, in the classic sense of the word, though it took quite a few sessions for me to term it what it was and really accept it.
I’m really happy that I talked with this therapist about this stuff.  She reminded me about the climate for our situation in the early 1980s.  
It would be quite a fight for my father to “fight” for custody for me or for any of the children.  Especially since my mom had been and still was (at the time) a Stay-At-Home-Mom.  My father would have to try and prove my mother to be an unfit mother in order to have any sort of chance, and there was practically zero chance that a court would see my mother as an unfit mother…because, well, she wasn’t.
Besides that, my mother had cared for the home and children while my father had attended and completed law school.  My mother had cared for my father, the home and children for 16 years, while my father had been in the military, stationed in several different locations, including internationally.  
And…my father, in my adult opinion, “wanted out” and didn’t want to mess with a messy court battle that would upset the children or even my mother.  As it was, I am fairly confident that my father wasn’t getting a lot of support from his own parents with this move.  So as a man on his own, doing what I have come to see as what he felt he had to do…trying to take me with him was not going to be a very smart move.
The only way I might have had a chance to go with my father would have been to ask for it, to beg for it, to let the screams of my desires reverberating in my brain to overflow out of my mouth.  And, well…that’s a tall order for an 8-year-old, seeing her mother crying on the couch, being told by her father that he’s leaving and not knowing what that really means.  I mean, as an adult, I can look back and see that my parents’ relationship was far from healthy and that my father was trying to “get out” of a bad relationship.  But when I was 8, it sure felt near impossible to see my father leaving as anything but leaving ME.
I realized after my post the other day, that perhaps writing about this stuff might cause some people to misconstrue my intent or my relationship with  my father.  While my relationship with my father is nothing like it would or could have been, I consider it strong at this point in my life.  That is possible only through the power of God’s forgiveness and the Grace He has bestowed on me to accept my father with all of his failings…as my Dad.  
God has granted me the GRACE to see as an adult what I could never see as a child.  
God has bestowed upon me precious gifts of my husband and my children to show me that the evil of divorce doesn’t HAVE to be a cycle and that I have a choice to love beyond myself.  Through these gifts, I am able to see that my dad was broken (as we all are broken) in sin and God has enabled me to believe that my dad really did love me and that it was probably very hard on him that loving me and my siblings wasn’t enough.  As a mom, I can’t truly empathize with it, but I can see it just enough in the way my dad has handled our relationship since I’ve been an adult to know that it was painful for him to be separated from us…because he was separated from God as well. 

Anyway, as I write of these experiences, I am still on a journey of discovery and forgiveness.  I’m able to write about this part of the journey BECAUSE God has enabled me to reach the point where I understand and God has touched my heart just enough that I can see the situation the way that I do.  I can’t predict how long this journey will continue as I am currently processing much related to my mother and her role in all of this, but I feel confident that I have resolved enough with regards to my dad, that I am able to share.