This blog is a space for discussing topics related to religious education. I think, for many people, the term “religious education” conjures up images of gradeschoolers learning about the Ten Commandments or the Trinity, or particularly second-graders preparing to receive their First Reconciliation and their First Holy Communion. Certainly, such images do reflect the vast majority of formal religious instruction. But it is important that we not neglect all of the other facets of religious education, all of the other people undergoing instruction in the faith, and how we can better serve them.
Today I’d like to talk, in particular, about the Sacrament of Baptism, and how we can prepare people for that sacrament.
My wife recently gave birth to our fourth child (Deo gratias!), and we were blessed to have the opportunity to have her baptized less than a week later. Even with our fourth child, we had to prepare ourselves for the sacrament, as we were about to undertake the great responsibility of leading another soul to God.
Baptism is one of the most profoundly important things that can happen in one’s life. Think about it: it is so much more than just a ritual, a rite of passage, a photo-op at the church. This is a sacrament, instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ during his time on the earth, a visible sign of an invisible reality, which effects an ontological change, fundamentally and permanently affecting the soul, cleansing from original sin (and any personal sin), infusing with grace and the Holy Spirit, joining the individual to the Body of Christ. What an incredible gift!
Whether it is an infant being baptized, a young child, a young adult, or an adult, it is imperative that all those involved are catechized as much as possible. I would say there is no question that many parents and godparents do not fully grasp the gravity of what they are undertaking, when it is an infant being baptized, and many who receive baptism later in life do not understand that what they are doing is so much more than a rite of passage.
Ignatius Press publishes a number of books for children with Magnificat. Many of them are board books, perfect for toddlers and younger. These books have beautiful artwork, simple catechesis on the topic at hand, and prayers for children. One of these is called Baptism Day. A beautiful gift for children being baptized, or their young siblings who would like to learn more about the sacrament.
Many young children are baptized well after infancy, at older and older ages. When they have reached an age where they can take religious instruction, it is important to prepare them as much as possible for reception of the Sacrament of Baptism. Another great catechetical resource for young children is the animated series Brother Francis. This series presents the faith for children without sacrificing the truth; nothing is diminished or downplayed. The Truth is presented unabashedly, in a very kid-friendly and engaging manner. There is an episode called “Born into the Kingdom” that teaches about the Sacrament of Baptism.
The Augustine Institute has produced many wonderful video series on the sacraments: Presence on the Holy Eucharist; Forgiven on Reconciliation; Beloved on Matrimony; and Reborn on Baptism. Reborn does a terrific job of preparing for reception of the Sacrament of Baptism. Whether preparing the parents for their child’s reception of the sacrament, or preparing an individual for their own baptism, the series is approachable and engaging, and beautifully put together. The Augustine Institute has a knack for such video series, and they present the fullness of the faith without sacrificing a jot or tittle of the Truth. My own parish utilizes this series for baptism preparation, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
As catechists, as those who are instructing people in the faith, we need to do our best to leave no stone unturned. We are talking about the salvation of souls, the most important work we could ever do. Baptism so often marks the beginning of the journey of faith; it is the entrance into the Christian life; it is important to build a firm foundation upon which a life of grace can be built.