Dear Father Angelo,
A dear friend of mine had a child a few days ago. My friend received the sacraments, but I don’t think his girlfriend has (they are not married), because she comes from a former communist country.
We met and I asked him if he plans to have the baby baptized. He replied he does not, as they both do not consider it necessary. His answer upset me.
At the foundation of the choices we can make in life there is knowledge. Knowing the Lord, living in an environment where there are many opportunities to meet Him, can help us decide whether to follow Him or not. It is legitimate to leave a spiritual community and it is a privilege to be able to return to it.
However, if one has not always been a member of the community to which he/she belongs (specifically, the Church), there might be difficulties in approaching it later. This can be discouraging at times. Who, as an adult, has the time to follow a catechesis and to take the steps that lead to receiving the sacraments? Some resolute people still manage, but not everyone.
Even knowing how to understand a painting by Raffaello or Caravaggio can be affected by the lack of an even basic Christian education. Why deprive your children of this testimony?
I said to him: “You are taking a serious responsibility,” but I dared not add anything else.
I asked Our Lady to touch the parents’ hearts and to persuade them to have the child baptized. Is there a more specific advocacy that can intercede with the Lord in order to obtain this grace?
I ask you to pray for the greater good for the child, which is always what God wants, whatever it may be.
Answer from the priest
1. It is indeed a serious responsibility for parents not to plan to baptize their child. The problem is that they do not perceive it as a responsibility.
I believe that they are sure they are doing a good thing.
2. However, their responsibility is serious, first of all towards themselves. Because the birth of the son has placed them in front of the problem of Baptism.
Instead of taking the opportunity to learn more about the grace of this Sacrament, they most likely concluded quickly that it serves no purpose.
It is to be hoped that what the Lord said about those Pharisees who had turned upon him and upon the man born blind does not apply to their case: “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind” (John 9:39).
Adding shortly thereafter: “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains” (John 9:41).
St. Augustine comments: “If you were blind, if you realized you were blind, if you admitted that you were blind, you would go to the doctor; but as you say: we see, your sin remains. Because by deluding yourself that you see, you do not seek the doctor and remain in your blindness.”
3. It is also a serious responsibility towards the child who remains more exposed to the common enemy and is not sanctified by grace.
Regarding the exposure to the common enemy St. Thomas writes: “Demonic power remains in man with regard to the stain of sin and to the debt of punishment, until sin is removed by baptism.
In reference to this, St. Cyprian writes: ‘Know that the evil of the devil can resist up to the healing water, but in baptism he loses all possibility of causing harm’ (Epist. 76)” (Summa theologica, III, 71, 3).
4. Their responsibility is serious because they deprive him of the healing grace that brings into him the personal presence of God.
St. Thomas writes: “‘Baptism,’ as St. Augustine says, ‘has the task of incorporating the baptized into Christ as his limbs’ (De bapt. parvul. 1, 26).
But from Christ as head descends into all the limbs the fullness of grace and virtue, as reported by St. John: ‘From his fullness we have all received’ (John 1:16).
It is therefore evident that with baptism grace and virtues are obtained” (Summa theologica, III, 69, 4).
It is useful to remember that grace is like a hedge that makes the child immune to devil’s attack.
This is recognized by the devil himself in reproaching God for having put a hedge around Job the rightful, so he could not do anything to him: “Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection?” (Job 1:10).
5. Furthermore as Baptism incorporates one to Christ, it applies to the child the merits of the passion of Jesus Christ, which are infinite and most precious.
When baptized children reach a few years of age and are able to pray, they enjoy the merits of the Lord’s passion because they are applied to them with Baptism.
This is why childrens’ prayer is particularly effective.
5. All this without saying of the other effects of Baptism, such as incorporation into the Church, the seal or character imprinted on the soul and what derives from it.
This is why Pope Francis recently said that dispensing Baptism to children is an act of justice.
7. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to highlight these gifts.
I remember you to the Lord and bless you.