We had our baby boy Caleb baptised in early September. It was a lovely day as he was welcomed into the Catholic community of Sugarloaf Parish and celebrated as a very special member of our extended families.
I think we often do things without thinking about the reasons. Some occasions and traditions are simply automatic – something that is done in your family, something that is expected. Baptism can be one of these events. There are many people who have their children baptised because they themselves were baptised, or because there is an expectation from their parents, or because they hope to enrol them into the local Catholic school one day.
Hopefully though, on the day, most people who have their children baptised think about the promise they are making and gain greater meaning from the sacrament.
I am a Catholic and my husband Jason is not. We also have two daughters who have both been baptised in the Catholic Church. Our eldest attends a Catholic school and our second daughter will begin there next year. I want my children to be brought up in the Catholic faith, as I was, and Jason is fully supportive of this. I take the children to Mass, although I am not there every Sunday.
I have many conflicted feelings about the Catholic Church, the institutional Church. I have trouble connecting the story of Jesus to many of the teachings of the Church and the Church’s response to a number of issues does not reflect my own views. And yet, I do really want my children to be baptised as Catholics. I want them to attend Catholic schools and I still want them to understand, respect and find meaning in the Mass. As flawed and confused as my faith is, it is still there, still part of me. And despite my many misgivings about the Church it is still my Church, my heritage, a connection to my shared family history and childhood.
I want my children to feel they have a special place in their local Catholic community and I want to utilise the platform our Catholicism gives us to teach them about social justice, love of their neighbour, forgiveness and grace. I love the story of Jesus and I want them to feel connected to that story and model their lives on him. I want them to feel comforted by their faith when life gets hard. I want them to have a spiritual life.
I think that giving my children a religion is the best way for me to provide them with a choice in terms of their spirituality later in life. You so often hear people say that they want to leave it up to their kids when they grow up to make a decision about religion and faith, but if you don’t give your kids any experience of religion or faith, isn’t the likely conclusion going to be that they won’t choose any? You wouldn’t neglect health or nutrition to ‘leave it up to them to decide when they grow up’! Of course, my kids will grow up and choose whether they continue to practise the faith we have chosen for them, but at least they will be making that decision from a basis of experience.
I want my kids to be grateful for the blessed life they have, to be thankful that they were lucky enough to be born here. I want them to grow up thinking about other people and how they can help them. I want them to look for greater meaning in their experiences. I don’t want them to be self-absorbed. I believe that having faith can help them with these things.
My daughter recently had a class liturgy at her school and the children were so sweet reading their prayers and singing their special hymns. One hymn the children sang, John Burland’s “Love Like Jesus Did”, was a simple and powerful reminder to me about why I wanted to have my kids baptised. Despite my conflicted feelings, my many questions and the flawed practice of my faith, I believe in the story of Jesus and that’s what I want to pass on to our kids.