Gratitude for my infant baptism took some time.
For years, I regretted not remembering my own baptism. If this is the most important moment in most people’s spiritual journey, why was I baptized before I was even aware of what was happening?
For context on my own baptism, I would look to my younger siblings, many of whose baptisms I witnessed. At my youngest brother’s ceremony, for example, my immediate family and his godparents gathered in the baptismal chapel at our church after mass one Sunday. After asking the parents and godparents a series of formal questions, the priest poured a tiny stream of water over his head in the name of each person of the Trinity. My brother cried when some of the water got in his eye.
Cut to my freshman year of college, when overpriced airline tickets stranded some friends and me in Michigan over Easter break. I decided not to attend Easter Sunday mass as was customary for my family, and instead tried the Easter Vigil ceremony for the first time. On this night, eighteen peers of mine professed their belief in all the Church’s teachings and became baptized Catholics. Here was true joy, I thought: tears in the eyes of some of the catechumens as they announced their faith publicly, bells piercing through the Gloria and reverberating against the roof of the sanctuary.
Why wasn’t adult baptism an option for me?
The Easter Vigil opened my eyes to the possibility of adult baptism. Had I missed something in my own ceremony as a two-week-old? Consciously choosing to be baptized and remembering it afterwards is a central part of this ritual in some denominations. A good friend of mine with Baptist roots still hasn’t been baptized at age 25. It’s not because he is struggling to accept his faith, but that his church places such a heavy emphasis on the purity of one’s intentions that he has always doubted himself, refusing baptism for fear of receiving it with a clouded conscience.
A handful of other evangelical friends also were only baptized in recent years, shying away until adulthood for reasons of self-doubt, like the friend above.
These various scenarios of adults receiving baptism made me a little envious. I wished I could remember my experience of this sacrament. I was thus motivated to examine why Catholics prefer infant baptism to the “believer’s baptism” of teenagers and adults.
The beauty of an infant baptism
And, when I discovered the answer, my envy evaporated. Far from being sorry not to remember my baptism, I am now grateful to my parents through whose efforts my original sin was erased, because of whose belief I became a part of the Church at two weeks old. Due to my parents’ resolution to get me baptized, I have a shot at salvation. I fully intend to do the same for my own children.