October 5, 2013
As you know, my relationship with the Church is complicated. I was quite content to be a lapsed Catholic, and then the College of Cardinals had to go and elect a Jesuit to be Pope. A Jesuit! I mean, really! And then Francis goes about his papacy like he’s some kind of, well, Jesuit! He makes it hard to be a lapsed Catholic. (Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like he’s gotten me to start going to church again. But he’s really complicated things for me.)
So here I am, happy lapsed Catholic, driving around with a bumper sticker that proclaims “Ordain Catholic Women or Stop Baptizing Them”, and this pope comes along who starts acting like he actually cares about those groups the Church has traditionally not treated all that well, and I have to ask myself how I feel about inaugurating my child into the Church. Before I got pregnant, it was quite simple. I’d have some sort of non-traditional, non-religious naming ceremony. (I’m still Catholic; I love ritual.) But then my parents were talking about giving me Saturday evenings off. They’d take the baby to church with them, and I’d be able to do wild and crazy things like read a book in the bath. And I could see where that would lead: my child would be asking why he or she couldn’t receive communion. And to me, Catholicism is as much a culture as it is a religion. But having a baptism when I don’t go to church and don’t plan to start anytime soon seems disingenuous.
I went back and forth on the question of baptizing my child for a long time before my mom finally proposed a solution. Anyone can perform a baptism. Why not just do something small at home? And that was exactly right. We planned to visit my brother and his family when the baby was about a month old. We’d pack my christening gown and have a small home ceremony with just the family.
Obviously, the plan turned out not to be an option.
That Friday, Heather and my mom dressed Sofia in our christening gown. With Heather and Nicki as witnesses, I held Sofia as my dad baptized her and my mom blessed her. She was baptized as Sofia Bernice (because my grandmother, my dad’s mother, pronounced it with the accent on the first syllable) and blessed as Sofia Bernice (because my great-aunt Berny, my mom’s aunt, pronounced it with the accent on the second syllable). And we all cried.
And while it wasn’t the baptism that I had planned for her, it was still right. It was about family and love. And wisdom.