This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to celebrate a Baptism for a family I have know for a few years. At the very beginning of the Rite, after asking the name of the child and the intention of the parents to have their child baptized, I said the following words:
You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?
As I reflect on those words, it strikes me how significant this moment is, not just in the Rite of Baptism, but in the lives of the parents as they present their child for baptism. Notice the dynamic of the parents turning to the Church to bring new life to the child, but how the Church, for her part, reminds the parents of the role that they play in nurturing this new gift. The Church always sees the training of children in the faith as collaboration. The Church can never replace the role that parents play, thus the words that she gives to them on the occasion of the baptism of their children.
A good priest friend of mine has told the story about his own father and how he has said that when he dies, the very first question the Lord will ask him is this: “Where are your children and your wife in their faith because of you?” That is a powerful thought to ponder, to be reminded that the Lord will ask us to account for the stewardship we have practiced with regards to the gift of our family that He has entrusted to us. Therefore, the question posed by the Church on the day of a child’s baptism is a question parents need to be reminded of often: “Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”
Do not be ashamed if your answer to this question is “no”, or “I’m not sure.” Keep in mind what I wrote above that this task is one of collaboration with the Church. We stand ready and willing to assist you in your role of helping our families live this mission of growing in discipleship. Our Family of Faith and our Adult Faith Formation programs are just two pieces of that assistance. But you may have other questions about various circumstances and challenges you face as you undertake this task, and it can seem overwhelming at times. Know that you are not alone! Please reach out to one of us here at the parish (one of the priests or deacons, or Vicki Compton) and we will be more than happy to lend some support to assist you in this demanding, yet incredibly rewarding duty of bringing your family closer to Christ.
For all of our parents (regardless of whether your children are at home or have moved out), I invite you this week to reflect on that question about your role of training your families in the faith: “Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”