Scaffolding surrounded the brick facade, and we entered cautiously, almost tentatively. Inside, crisp and clean colors and light awaited. The altar was centered, but the Baptismal font was on the right side, and the baby was ready. He wore an immaculate white outfit with the Cross embroidered on his socks and bib. Lips pursed and eyes sealed, he slept with the peace of the innocent. Wrapped around his chubby legs was the Christening blanket that covered his maternal grandfather 60 years before. Nearby was the paternal grandfather; the child would receive his name. There was the great grandmother and three young cousins and very attentive parents tending to that baby’s needs. And everyone wore masks. It was a pandemic christening, but the joy could not be contained.
The gathering was a testament to resilience and to faith. After months without visiting, a family gathered to welcome and celebrate the life of the next generation. He cried when anointed, and he cried with the water spilling over his forehead. “Shouting for his faith,” his great grandmother noted. There were smiles and nods everywhere, and he settled in the strength of his parent’s arms in full contentment…in spite of the missed nap time. Then there was the closing applause for this child now formally welcomed to life and to the family of Catholicism.
Baptism as a beginning allows for reflection. We all begin there, tiny treasures. And then there is becoming, growth and change: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood. . And finally, there are endings. Seated in those socially distanced pews were young adults and middle aged and senior citizens, each bringing a life perspective and the grace of lived experience. There were a variety of faith traditions and some lack thereof, but there was no shortage of the love that transcends all that. In this moment, this child gathered everyone together for the purpose of celebrating the gift of life. In this pandemic celebration, there was the promise of new beginnings, a first step forward for everyone there.
Baptism is the strongest of reminders that we are all in this together; one cannot exist without the others. There is a wisdom to generations gathered, to griefs set aside, to time spent in gracious gratitude for the breath of life. There is a glow to the Baptismal candle that persists in the darkness and the shade of uncertainty. There is a strength in godparents ready and committed to support child and the parents, a courage from previous generations to sharing lessons, a hope in the children gathered. All that stands against fear and anxiety.
Baptism is a visible testimony that with God, all things are possible. And so the sacrament of belief and beginning is the sacrament of hope and promise, the one that opens the door to the next, and is the foundation for grace received over and over. It is the awareness that we all belong to something greater than self, that we share something greater than self in each breath of life. And somehow, it is the promise that faith and life go on and thread generations of families, communities and lives into one tapestry of faith and hope.