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Photo Credit: Illustration by Abigail Witte

Baptism provides the graces to live Christ-like and share in His mission

At our baptism, heaven opens to us. It is our birth into a new life in Christ and is necessary for salvation.

But it doesn’t end there. Our baptism remains with us and requires us to follow through.

Father Phil Sosa, provincial superior of the North American Province of the Missionaries of the Holy Family, said that through the baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, “Jesus expresses His solidarity with all of humanity in their longing for the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. Through our baptism, we are called to follow Jesus Christ and continue to show the gift of His humanity to the world.”

Father Sosa called baptism “the gateway to life in the Holy Spirit and a door that gives access to the other sacraments.”

Photo Credits: Illustration by Abigail Witte
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that baptism calls people to participate in the apostolic and missionary activity of the people of God and to the witness of holy lives and practical charity.

“Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to Him who died and rose for us. From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, and to ‘obey and submit’ to the Church’s leaders, holding them in respect and affection. Just as baptism is the source of responsibilities and duties, the baptized person also enjoys rights within the Church: to receive the sacraments, to be nourished with the Word of God and to be sustained by the other spiritual helps of the Church” (Catechism, 1269).

A guiding light

Deacon Dale Follen, associate director for formation with the archdiocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate who serves at St. Michael Parish in Shrewsbury, said that the baptism of an infant is a time for adults to bring Christ back into their lives. It also re-engages parents who are tasked with bringing Christ into their children’s lives.

“In baptism you’re bringing someone into the Church. We use the symbol of the light of Christ when we light the candles. That light of Christ is coming into the child’s life,” he said.

When he worked with the Hispanic community at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester, the godparents brought a special candle to baptism symbolizing the light of Christ that they would bring with them through the rest of the child’s sacraments. “They understood that the light of Christ was being carried on through the rest of their sacraments for them,” Deacon Follen said.

Baptism, he said, is only the beginning. That flame is to be kept alive “throughout the rest of your life, and Christ is always there with you to be your guiding light.”

Exciting journey

Msgr. James Callahan, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville, stresses that baptism initiates an exciting journey of faith. “It ends, hopefully, at the doors of heaven,” he said.

On the journey, he said, people need to constantly make connections between everyday life and faith. “It may be at work, in their family, their home, their neighborhood, their parish,” he said.

When encountering many situations and people, Catholics need to bring their faith, making the connections through the difficulties and joys of life, he said.

He cites a quotation from St. Louis, King of France: “I think more of the castle chapel of Poissy where I was baptized than the cathedral of Reims where I was crowned king of France. So the dignity of a child of God which was bestowed on me at baptism is greater than that of the ruler of this kingdom. The latter I will lose at death, the other will be my passport to everlasting glory.”

Stamped with His image

Lawrence Feingold, associate professor of theology and philosophy at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury, said baptism and confirmation are sacraments of Christian initiation, and “both of them imprint an indelible mark, or seal on us which is the mark of Christ.”

People still have free will, he said, and may not follow Him but they are stamped with His image and call.

“Throughout our Christian life, that stamp of baptism is the source of graces to live the calling of baptism, which is everything, to be a member of Christ and therefore to live Christ-like and share in His mission,” he said.

Feingold, who is writing a book on the sacraments, cited a baptismal spirituality, which is an awareness of that stamp in Christ’s image — both a calling and the guarantee of His grace to carry out that likeness and mission.

The Catechism (1121) refers to baptism and confirmation as well as holy orders as a configuration to Christ and the Church, brought about by the Spirit, which is indelible, remaining forever in the Christian “as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection.”

So, Feingold said, “I can always call on baptism and confirmation,” seeing God’s providence in the events of ordinary life.

“Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word”

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213)

The baptism ceremony

In baptism, we become a son or daughter of God the Father, and a brother or sister of Jesus Christ.
Photo Credits: Illustration by Abigail Witte

While baptism is the first of the three sacraments of initiation (along with Holy Communion and Confirmation) for one to become fully a member of the Catholic Church, “the life-giving waters of baptism wash the soul clean of sin and provide graces for one to live their Catholic faith,” said Msgr. Ted Wojcicki, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie, a parish with 149 baptisms from birth to adults in 2019.

“The baptism ceremony reminds us that the ‘parents are the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith,’” Msgr. Wojcicki said. In preparation for the baptism, the parents make the baptismal promises in the name of the child. In so doing they are making a promise to provide good direction to their child.”

His parish staff suggests that in addition to praying with the child every Sunday at Mass, parents should pray at home with the child at least twice a day, before meals and before sleep. Children need not only to be told to pray but to see their parents praying.

“The parents teach their child the ways of faith even more by example than by words,” Msgr. Wojcicki said. “It is not only helpful but necessary that parents witness to their child the joy of Sunday Mass rather than present Sunday Mass attendance as (only) an obligation. The commandment of Jesus to love one another is best taught to the children by the child witnessing the way the parents treat one another.”

Other points to consider, he said, are that:

• Children pay close attention to the way Mom and Dad treat each other. This is a challenge and an opportunity.

• Fathers are reminded that statistically the greatest predictor of lifelong religious practice is the example of the father.

• Godparents should be chosen not only because they are a close relative or friend but because they are joyful and faithful in the practice of their Catholic faith.

Ways to keep the light of Christ alive in your life:

• Establish or reinvigorate your prayer routine

• Schedule a retreat

• Join a Bible study

• Find ways to better connect your faith with your work, home life and activities; all work and activities matter to God, so approach it with love and treat others with dignity

• Take part in a parish social ministry

• Attend a Mass during the week

• Sign up for an hour of adoration

• Read a book about a saint

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