Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Celebrating Baptism Day

Last night, we celebrated the baptism day of our three children.

We meant to do this last year, but the day was sandwiched between Father's Day and my birthday, so it came and went without much notice.

The desire to do more to strengthen our family's prayer life and to follow the seasons of the liturgical year can feel like a stumbling block. If we get too caught up in the details of the various days and feasts we'd like to celebrate, we can get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing at all. The important thing about the cycle of the liturgical year (and about praying together as a family) is that it is a cycle. It repeats. We have chance after chance to try things out, see what works for us, and take notes for next year. Doing something to mark time and to notice the holy days that matter to our family is better than doing nothing, even if our celebrations end up being less than Pinterest-worthy.

This year, we decided a simple celebration was better than no celebration at all. Here's what we did:

  • The children chose a special dinner.

Sam asked for cheeseburgers and tater tots (and achieved consensus with the Sisters), so that's what we had.  I made a large chocolate chip cookie for dessert and decorated it with a white icing cross and the children's initials. The (store-bought) icing immediately ran everywhere. I did not photograph this for you, so you'll have to take my word for it. The cookie was delicious- no one complained about the runny decorating job.

  • We pulled out their baptismal candles and lit them one at a time. George read the baptismal promises to each child. Each one answered the questions seriously- Sam with a quiet "yes," Lucy with an emphatic "I do!" and Nora with a forceful nod of her head.

We found a small liturgy for this purpose here. It was fun to hear them gleefully renouncing Satan and all his empty promises. I enjoyed seeing how much they have changed since they were baptized...on that day, we answered the questions on their behalf, and now they can speak for themselves. I know they don't fully understand everything now (do any of us, really?), but they recognized the phrases we say in the Creed each week during Mass. It felt good to see how their understanding has grown in just two short years...like we're doing some things right. After the day we'd had around here, this was a wonderful moment for me as a parent.

  • We blessed each child with some of our Easter holy water by making a cross on his or her forehead.

  • We read a special prayer together as a family to close our celebration.  
Blessed are you, Loving Father, Ruler of the Universe. 
You have given us your Son,
And have made us temples of your Holy Spirit.
Fill our family with your light and peace.
Have mercy on all who suffer,
And bring us to everlasting joy with you, Father.
We bless your name forever and ever. Amen.

The prayer is a traditional family prayer and is included in our children's Bible (we have this one, which contains some prayers, notes from the Catechism and other suggestions for incorporating liturgy at home). I hadn't seen this prayer before. Lucy found it yesterday and liked the accompanying picture so much that she asked me to read it to her several times. It fit perfectly with our little service of celebration.

Afterward, we looked at pictures from the day of the children's baptism. I never managed to get any of those pictures printed. As we crowded around the screen of the iPad trying to see them, we decided we should make a photo book so the kids could look at them more often. They all enjoyed seeing the much younger versions of themselves (they change so quickly at this stage!), commenting on how Lucy had no hair and George still had some, and noticing the differences in the baptismal font, which our parish recently replaced with a new one.

A friend of mine has a family saying: "If you do something once and you like it, it's a tradition. If you do it twice, it's a tradition whether you like it or not." Based on the giggles, smiles and warm feelings this evening, I think this particular tradition is one we'll be intentionally keeping for a long time.

Do you celebrate baptismal days in your family? What traditions do you have for marking this occasion?

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