Why is it so complicated nowadays to have one's child baptized?
Why wait so long to baptize a child? Why must the child be the victim of his parents' refusal and stubbornness? It is complicated nowadays to have one's child baptized and I would like to know why.
"The practice of baptizing children goes back to the first centuries of the Church", wrote Hans Urs von Baltazar. "If this practice were to be discontinued, something precious would be lacking in the Church; part of God's love for children would not be expressed. By baptizing newborn children, the Church wonderfully proclaims that God calls every person to a new life, whatever his or her age." The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recommends that parents have their children baptized without delay.
On October 20, 1980, that same Congregation published an instruction on the baptism of infants which recalls the necessity of baptism and the immemorial tradition with regard to infant baptism. Already in 418 AD, the Council of Carthage condemned the opposite opinion!
Until recent years, the issue of infant baptism did not exist. The infant was baptized and from the very first years of life, he or she used to learn at home about the love of God and prayer. When children began to go to school, there too they were able to develop their faith, study the Christian doctrine and grow within the Church they were members of.
Well, the society in which we grew up has changed! It is rather pagan now. Our schools are more or less non-denominational. Many parents do not practice their religion. They are not witnesses to their faith anymore. The life received at baptism is in danger of withering, even dying.
To a new problem a new solution! As a mother, the Church is worried! She reacts wisely according to the Spirit. She is responsible for the sacraments, especially baptism which makes a human being, a "child of God and partaker in the divine nature" (The Church, 40). She does not want baptism to be received in vain. But, on the other hand, she does not want to fall into elitism nor neo-jansenism (Robert Pannet).
First of all, the Church wants baptism to be well understood by those who intend to have their child baptized. She insists on preparing them to be responsible Christian parents. To have one's child baptized is not enough! It is not sufficient to transmit Christian, supernatural, divine life! One must make sure that this very life will be able to grow. It will grow if the parents, with the help of the godparents and community, shoulder their responsibilities.
Baptism is not a magic act!
The Church does not want baptism to be postponed. As soon as the mother has recovered, the infant should be baptized.
Prospective parents are invited to inform the priest about the expected child. Then, the priest, with sisters or chosen lay people as pastoral helpers, will prepare the parents for their child's baptism. Individual or collective meetings will be scheduled to instruct them in an interesting and pleasant way.
In so doing, the Church does not simply refuse or put off baptism, which remains necessary for salvation (Mk 16: 16). But she wants baptism to bear its fruit, to be truly the beginning of a new life in the Spirit.
Hence, baptism must be delayed if the parents are unprepared.
What then if the child was to die in the meantime...? Let us trust in the goodness of the Lord!
No, it is not complicated to have one's child baptized! But, besides faith, common sense requires some essential Christian intentions on the part of the parents. It is not that the Church judges them. She just means to help them.
If they stubbornly refuse the necessary preparation, then of course, the child will, to a certain degree, be affected by the obstinate refusal of his parents. But, stubbornness often comes from ignorance.
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