Friday, August 21, 2009

Baptismal blessing

So, baptism is a big topic, and I can't address it all in one post. Among the topics purposely delayed for a future posting, whenever I work out the details in my own head:
  • Why Baptism at all? (What do I believe would have happened if we had not?)
  • Do I really believe in God (short answer is YES, but the explanation is much longer)
  • Why Episcopal and not Catholic?
  • Is Christianity the only path to God?
  • What took so long?--he's 7 already!
To cut to the chase, Barley's baptism was the central reason for the family and friends gathering last weekend. It is also the primary source of stress and worry these last few months.

Ever since we started planning this, we've been panicked by visions of Barley throwing a tantrum in the church, or having to be wrestled to the ground to receive the chrism of oil on his forehead. One of our guests asked us if Barley was looking forward to the baptism, and our response was, "Not at all. He hates having to go to church." This was why we declined the invitation to baptize him during the Sunday service with dozens of other families in attendance.

While we totally understand the community aspect of this celebration, we did not want to have to keep the boys in good behavior for 90 minutes in front of mostly strangers (we just joined the church about 8 months ago). A private ceremony--about 45 minutes, with just our family and friends seemed like a much better recipe for success.

And so it was! Barley, my truculent boy, who hates to get his face wet, voluntarily bent his head down over the fountain to be blessed. When I saw this, I knew that miracles CAN happen! I think I may have heard music too...but maybe that was just in my head.

My brother, Barley's uncle and Godfather, was standing by, ready to put him into a headlock if he didn't go with the program. We had explained to Barley what was going to happen, and shown him the fountain--although there was no water in it at the time. Seems all the preparation did the trick.

All this worrying goes to show it is much smarter to take care of this sacrament when the child is still an infant, and unable to fight back! We had similar issues when Teddy was baptized at age 2. He scampered about the church, and played hide-and-seek under my dress through the service. Sigh. I told myself then that we would baptize the next child younger to avoid these problems, but things just did not work out that way.

There was one funny moment when my brother was asked to light the baptismal candle, since he was the tallest one of us standing there. At 5'9", he doesn't get called that very often! Before any images of the large Asian population in California come to mind, let me point out that everyone standing up there, including the priest, was Caucasian except me and the boys--heh.

Barley's friends were lined up on the other side of the fountain, watching to see it up close. It was adorable--I love seeing that wonder and curiosity in the young. Since this was a private ceremony, none of us stressed about it--they were free to witness all of it. Our priest made sure no one "baptized" Barley before he was ready.

All went well, there are no more pagans in our house. I believe there may be more paths to God and Heaven than just what the Christians offer--but this is the one I know. We all feel better about it, Barley included. The reverence with which he opened his baptismal gifts, and wore his gold cross the next day to church, showed he understood the solemnity of the occasion. I think my mother would have been pleased.

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