On Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing my third grandchild. (Number 4 will not be baptized but that’s a subject for another day. Suffice it to say that it’s very disappointing to her grandparents and other family members.) There are many honors that are reserved for priests and bishops, but baptizing your own grandchildren is all the more special because it’s something that only deacons can (normally) do. Of course there are exceptions. There are a handful of married priests who may have grandchildren, but in the normal course of things, deacons are the only Catholic clergy who get to perform this wonderful sacrament on their own flesh and blood.
As thrilling as Sunday was, there was a certain amount of fear and trepidation, too. Jesus told us that a prophet isn’t without honor except in his own town. I’m no prophet, that’s for sure. But family members know a side of us that others don’t, which makes it kind of hard to preach to them. I was “Dad” first, long before there was any thought of becoming a minister. In fact, when my kids were growing up, I’m sure they wondered if their father was even a Catholic. I wasn’t the best role model.
So what do you say to fulfill your obligations both as parent and grandparent, and as ordained minister? After a lot of thought and a lot of prayer, I did what I normally do. I decided to let the Holy Spirit take over. I walked into church with no notes and a minimal outline of what I was going to say. As usual, the Spirit came through for me, at least I think He did.
I took a break on Saturday afternoon and took a look at my facebook page. I posted that I was having a hard time with the baptism homily. My daughter-in-law commented back “We’re counting on you.” That was the answer to my prayer. They were counting on me. They had chosen me to be the minister of their daughter’s first sacrament. They weren’t looking for a softball. They wanted me to give them my best stuff! All of a sudden, I saw this situation in a whole new light.
I love my kids and couldn’t be more proud of all of them. And there’s nothing Iwant more for them thanto spend eternity in the presence of God. Jan and Ipray for that daily. As I said, at their age I wasn’t the best Catholic in the world. So I hope and pray that they will get back to regular reception of the sacraments eventually, just like I did.
So, what did I tell them? Essentially I told them that I’ve spent my life trying to make their lives as easy as possible. I’ve always tried to give them the best that I could afford, sometimes even better than I could afford, like twelve years of Catholic education. (Four kids x twelve years = forty eight years total. Ouch!) But there’s one thing I can’t make easy for them, and that’s their salvation. It’s entirely up to them. Like I said, Jan and I pray for them every day, but this is one time when they’re going to have to do it themselves.
My son and daughter-in-law, along with another son (the godfather) were promising to see that Morgan would be raised in the faith. They weren’t promising me, they were promising God. And that’s not something to be taken lightly. My kids have made a lot of promises to me that somehow didn’t work out. I’ve done the same to them. But when you make a promise to God, the stakes are quite a bit higher.
I admitted that I’ve been lax in following up on their brother and sister’s baptism, but that I would be much more vigilant in the future. And I intend to keep that promise.
Being given the privilege to baptize my own grandchildren, is too great a gift to squander. I have to be more vigilant in my duty to see that the sacrament is kept alive in their, and their parents and godparents, hearts.
Thanks, Jennifer and Mike for counting on me. I hope I never let you down.
PS, I gave a homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord that I use as a handout for baptismal preparation. You can download a copy of it on the Resources page of the blog.