My daughter is divorced and remarried. I'd like to have my granddaughter baptized but my parish refuses. What can I do?
As baptized Catholics, divorced people are still obliged to assist at Sunday Mass. Does your daughter go to Sunday Mass? Is your daughter willing to try to get an annulment so she can have her marriage recognized by the Church?
Is she willing to accept the responsibility of raising the child in the Church? If the answer is yes to these questions, the problem of the child's Baptism could be solved.
In the past, we considered Baptism almost in a magical way. So, to remove original sin, we immediately rushed infants to church almost as soon as they were born. When children were born to practising Catholic parents, it was understood that they would be raised according to Catholic teaching.
Today, we live in a very different society and so we focus to a much greater extent on its long-term obligations for how those children live the rest of their lives is what counts.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says "Infant Baptism requires a post-baptismal catechumenate. Not only is there a need for instruction after Baptism, but also for the flowering of baptismal grace"(n. 1231). So parishes hold Baptism preparation programs for parents.
If at least one parent promises to bring the child to Sunday Mass and raise the child as a Catholic, the parish normally agrees to Baptism. Sometimes, if the grandparents live close and can take over this responsibility from the parents, it may be possible to have the child baptized. If the child's religious nourishment is neglected, the Church feels that it is best not to have the child baptized.
The child has, by birth, become a member of a family, often of an extended family, sometimes going back many generations. So, too, through Baptism, that child becomes a member of the Body of Christ, of the community of faith extending 2,000 years.
The Church community becomes a support to the parents and children. That is why Baptisms are usually celebrated during Mass.
Jesus voluntarily submitted himself to be baptized by John the Baptist before beginning his public life. Christ tells the disciples "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded" (Matthew 28.19-20).
Therefore, not only is original sin forgiven, but the post-baptismal observation of the Christian life is necessary.
In Baptism, we die with Christ so as to rise with him. We "put on Christ" (Galatians 3.27) and are enabled to walk in the newness of life and live the Christian life fully.
From the beginning of the Church, instruction was considered vital before Baptism. At Pentecost, Peter preached to the assembled crowd and told them "Repent and be baptized" (Acts 2.38). Baptism is always connected to faith, "Believe and be saved . . . were baptized" (Acts 16.31).
The early Church established a period of instruction, such as the RCIA program we have today. This often lasted more than a year to give people time to understand and fully commit themselves to the Christian life. This was especially necessary in a persecuted community for threat of death could sway even those baptized.
Today, in many ways, we live in a similar society, a de-Christianized society. Unless there is a strong support base, it can become difficult for faith to survive and grow. With child Baptism, it is the parents who take on the primary commitment.
That faith received through Baptism must be nourished by knowledge and continued practice, as well as encouraged by parents, godparents, the schools and the whole community of faith. Without that kind of continued external help, the practice of the faith in modern society may waver or cease altogether.
Baptism is God's special gift because it opens the door to the other sacraments and to a life with Christ. By the reception of the Holy Spirit, Baptism becomes a priestly anointing, a seal and sign that we belong to God.
We are to be Christ to our world, a visible Christ by our lives and actions, by our prayers, by the beacon of hope and light that we hold up to all.
In the words of St. Augustine of Hippo: "Let us rejoice and give thanks, not only that we have become Christians but that we have become Christ. Do you grasp this? Do you understand the enormous grace God has given us? Stand in awe and rejoice; we have become Christ."
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