A question arose, at a parish leadership meeting, regarding the best method for teaching birth parents regarding the baptism of their children. Too much theological catechesis might appear boring, at least, confusing at most, to those who just want their child baptized. Making them listen as if to give an exam in theology may be more than they’ll be interested in.
Learning about the Sacraments, Heaven and Hell, and a lot of Church structure and doctrines are perfect for anyone seeking the deep root of Catholicism might be good for students of Catechetics, but not these parents. The timing of this information isn’t right for the imminent period of child rearing.
My suggestion may take a script from “A Teaching on the Paschal Mystery”. Without delving too deeply into this subject, which is all about the Passion, Death, Resurrection of Christ, see the essence of the Easter Vigil Mass and the walk through darkness following the Light of Christ.
As the Paschal Candle is lighted hear these words; “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today, the beginning and the ending. Alpha and Omega; all time belongs to him, and all ages; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” Then placing the five nails, representing the five wounds of Christ, into the Paschal Candle, the priest says, “By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard and keep us.” “May the light of Christ who rises this day in glory scatter the darkness of our hearts and minds.” The priest continues, “Almighty God, pour out your abundant blessing on this lighted candle, so that all who share in your holy mysteries may be filled with your grace and spiritual blessings. Once we were in darkness, but since we have become the Lord’s people, we are in the light. Help us to live as people who belong to the light, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Herein lies the very essence of what baptism is about, a child (Catechumen) born into God’s Family and the dispelling of a life in a shroud of darkness taking that walk, led by the Light of Christ to the Resurrection. This walk, with the deacon carrying the Paschal Candle, leads us out of darkness to and with Christ who is the Light.
Not much more needs to be said, except to continue with excerpts from the Exultet (the Easter Proclamation before the Paschal Candle). The words, “O Happy Fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” Brings all of the praise to God, His Risen Son, and the completion of the Holy Spirit, the Very Holy Trinity, God forever and ever.
Conclude with the day our life changes; as we are carried into the Church living the words of baptism when the priest says; In the waters of baptism (your name) died with Christ and rose with him to new life. May he/she now share with him eternal glory.” The true meaning of baptism, founded within the Resurrection, as lived out during the words; (your name) “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit;” as water is poured across your head and you are now one with Christ.
Teach, by all means, but do not submit these parents to exhortations that should be taught at a more appropriate time. Whet their appetites with the premise of returning for a thorough catechesis that should induce the continued raising of their child in the Catholic tradition.
Ralph B. Hathaway March 2018