"Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213).

A valid Baptism entails immersion in water three times or water poured three times, not sprinkling, and must be done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

(from Questions and Answers about the Sacrament of Baptism)  



It was about ten years ago that I attended my God-daughter's baptism. I took the role of Godmother seriously, or as seriously as I could, being thousands of miles away. I believed it to be an honour, having cherished my own relationship with my Godmother. It wasn't the sort of thing one thought about when one was young. But as I grew older, I began to see the little things, the gestures, the respect. The ones that go before us do set an example, whether they fully realised it or not at the time.

I remember sitting beside my sister-in-law in the pew. She was holding her baby daughter and how precious she looked. I think she then wanted to hand over the baby to me but I declined as I wasn't sure if I would do it correctly, and I didn't want to feel embarrassed especially in a public place. Babies were precious, of course they were. But I had no experience with them whatsoever and just thought that it would look a little too awkward.

There is a photograph of me cradling my baby God-daughter. It wasn't a very comfortable moment but of course I wanted to do it. I wanted to hold her, gently, carefully. I suppose that's how it is with every new parent when they become a mother or a father for the very first time in their lives. Apprehension may set in at first for some but it must also be a wonderful moment.

A powerful scene on television recently reminded me of babies and Godmothers and baptism. It was powerful because it caught me unawares but revealed a very real and true moment.

There was nothing very special about the television program, just that the scene itself, as brief as it was, touched that place within that cries every once in a while for that nameless child, a child that I wonder about, a child that perhaps asks to be born but will never be born.

The scene was about a young woman who was becoming a Godmother for the first time. She cradled her friend's baby in her arms and watched as the priest poured the holy water onto the baby's forehead. Simple, isn't it? Yet it evoked an emotion from me that I was unprepared for. And as frivolous as I sometimes thought that particular television series to be, that scene brought about an ache and a longing and a tenderness that I hadn't felt for some time. An ache, yes. A longing, sure. But all three all at once was a new experience.

There is something very special about a mother holding her newborn baby. There is something very special, and sacred, about the Sacrament of Baptism, looking on as the priest baptises your child in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

It is about family, faith, sacrifice and the undying love that He has for us. And the unconditional love that a mother has for her child. All those words don't come so readily during those moments and no doubt I don't have all the answers. But I recognise innocence and love.

I was baptised into the Roman Catholic church when I was a baby. So were my brothers. And it would be wonderful, I think, to be able to cradle my own child in my arms and watch and listen as my beautiful darling child is baptised into the same faith. That had never occurred to me before mostly because one had to have a child first, before anything else could take place.

My older sister - or she would have been my older sister, as well as the oldest of the children, if she had survived her jaundice - only lived for five days. And because of her illness, there wasn't time for her to be baptised in a church. But we were told that our Grandma - our father's mother - took it upon herself to baptise Anne-Marie before the little baby passed away. I don't think she even had a Godmother or Godparents. She would have been five years older than me. And when I do think about her, I wonder what it would have been like to have had an older sister, someone to go to, to share with. I understand that sisters have a special relationship and when it's good, it's very good. And sometimes I miss that. If Anne-Marie had lived, maybe our mother wouldn't have had more children. We will never know, will we. All I know is that I had a sister. And I wonder what she thinks of me.

And which scene, I wonder, hit me the hardest when I was watching that television program: the young woman cradling her God-child or when the priest performed the Sacrament of Baptism. I think it was both. I grew up Catholic and I wouldn't change it for the world.



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