Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baptizing. The Final Frontier.

Now I hate myself for using a Star Trek or Star Wars or sci-fi reference, but I am far too distracted to come up with a better title.

Would you like to know the single most awful thing about having another child? (No, this is not a pregnancy announcement, thanks for wondering.) It isn't nausea. It isn't dealing with OBs or c-sections. It is planning the new child's baptism, and it is enough to make me hesitate to have more kids now that we have moved. Again.

I don't relish telling the following story, but I hear similar accounts, if not worse, from parents across the country. This is not an isolated instance, and I truly hope that more parishes can follow Pope Francis' example on the matter, because a Sacrament should not make someone feel like a terrible parent for being Catholic in isolating situations. I am writing this post in the hopes that those that can identify with it know they are not alone, and to say this: Remember that the sacrament is important, regardless of the challenges in procuring said sacrament!

It never crossed my mind that a sacrament would be a difficult project to set up or plan. With our oldest, we were in a small town and had been parishoners for years. I called, the priest asked to meet to set it up, and he was baptized within the month he was born. The day of the baptism, he mumbled something about needing a document from the Godparent's parish, stating they were on solid standing with the Church. The important aspect of the situation? A child would be baptized.

We moved to Florida before our second child was born. We settled on a parish while I was still pregnant, and I called months early to try to get a handle on the situation. I was not allowed to even set a date until I had presented an application for Baptism (complete with a birth certificate) and we needed to take a baptism preparation class. The next scheduled class was on the day after I was scheduled for surgery, so we had to wait to have our daughter baptized nearly two months. My conversations with the Baptism Coordinator went something like this:

BC: Oh, you don't have family here? I will find someone to be a Godparent.
Me: I am not comfortable with that. We have individuals we would like to ask.
BC: So your husband isn't Catholic?
Me: No.
BC: Is that the best environment to raise a child? I mean, that is confusing for a child, and maybe it would be better if you waited until you can convince him to convert.

I felt as though I was being told I was an awful Catholic for not manhandling my husband and relatives into conversion. The baptism class was worse. All 90 minutes of it was a conversation about appropriate gifts for your Godchildren.

Not on the list of appropriate gifts.

While we were not required to take the baptism class for our third child (because it fell within two years of taking the last class), this time it was just as difficult to get a baptism scheduled. When I called, I was first asked what my envelope number was, and that is really a demeaning experience. We had the same Godmother as we did the last time, but they required her parish priest send a certain document to verify she was in good standing. The problem, was that it was not a universally named document, so he had no idea what he was supposed to send. Should baptizing your child feel like you are the main event at the circus?

I am no dummy. I realize that there are maybe some well-intentioned folks out there that might not be baptizing their child with the full understanding of what that means in the Catholic faith. Maybe it is for show, maybe there are citizenship issues that influence policies, maybe bigger parishes are just trying to figure out how to do the best job they can do in order to "baptize all the babies!" Maybe parish politics are suffocating. I also know that it is important to have other Catholic role models in your children's lives, but are all these rules and regulations serving a purpose if it causes parents to hesitate to baptize their children in the faith?

I do not mean to infer that parish priests are responsible for this communication break-down. I had a few priests tell me they would happily baptize my child if I could not cross the finish line in our own parish. I love our priests and I truly do respect the catechism. I also talk a big game. I get really worked up, and my rage is especially easy to provoke while pregnant. I will always jump through every last hoop I have to in order to baptize my children. It all seems so unnecessary and incredibly joyless to wonder if you will actually close the deal on a baptism when we should be celebrating the births of the newest members of our Church.


  1. I can appreciate your frustration with "rules and regulations". My younger sister did not have a Catholic mass I believe because the way the rules and regulations were communicated to her and her non-Catholic fiancé led them to marry elsewhere. I do not think we should expect the Catholic church to relax on doctrine for our weak souls, but at the same time, if we want all souls to come to Christ, religious and lay people in the Catholic church should work with that always in mind. In the end, many won't accept Church teachings, but if Catholic teachings are communicated with compassion and mercy, versus just as "rules and regulations" we might find more people returning to the Church. Consistency too would help...why do some priests seem more lax and others are more strict? That can cause luke warm Catholics to stray too.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Point of clarification: It is the earthly parish politics that bug me. I wasn't commenting as much on the guidelines and doctrine the Church has regarding baptism, but rather the beast it has become. It seems to be most difficult in parishes where lay members oversee the sacraments instead of the priest, i.e. big parishes.


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