“The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism.” (CCC 1250)
The priest did not simply sprinkle our sleeping daughter’s head. He cupped both hands and thoroughly baptized the little girl. She jumped with the first pile of water and slept through the rest. She did not give her consent. She did not make a profession of faith. She was barely even aware of what was happening to her.
Forgiven of all sins. Made an adopted child of God, a “partaker of the divine nature.” Given the grace of justification. Enabled to believe and hope in God. Given the power of the Holy Spirit. Made a member of the Church, Christ’s body. Configured to Christ. Marked with the seal of the Lord. Reborn.
According to the Catechism, all of these gifts of grace—and more—are bestowed on a person in baptism. They are given to a baby who is not even a month old, who sleeps through the entire liturgy, and who can not consciously ascent to the faith stated in the Apostle’s Creed.
This is sheer gratuity.
I grew up in a Protestant Evangelical church that practiced credo baptism and I was baptized around the age of nine after professing my faith in Jesus. Having come now to the Catholic Church, the magnanimity and the overwhelmingly generous nature of the sacraments—particularly that of Baptism—bring me often to quiet wonder. That God would choose to bestow upon a tiny baby the fullness of forgiveness and grace through the means of water doesn’t make sense to our rational human minds. But that is precisely who God is and I have never seen Him more than when I observe and participate in the sacraments.
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As I watched the priest baptize my daughter, I knew the grace of God in a new way. He welcomes us with open arms into His Church long before we can choose to know and to love and to obey Him. He first loves us and makes us fit to love Him. We are made children of God. We are given the fullness of divine life. We are united to Him. We are made able to love Him. I could never do this on my own. My daughter can never do this on her own.
So God invites her to the waters. He welcomes her into His Church through the graces of the baptismal font and He calls her “daughter.” She simply exists. Her parents bring her to the Church and ask great things of God. In Baptism, we see the glory of our adoption.
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And in every Liturgy, He invites us to remember our own baptism.
Remember your baptism.
Those words run through my head often and I wonder what they mean. Our baptisms graft each of us to the vine of Christ, so remembering our baptism includes celebrating the glorious gift of adoption into the divine life. It also means living in a manner worthy of the grace we are given. As the baptismal liturgy so beautifully prays, we are to “walk as children of the light,” keeping the “flame of faith alive,” so that when the Lord comes, we may “go out to meet Him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.”
Remembering our baptism means living fully in the life of the Church. It means taking hold of the graces offered as we face our daily crosses. It means claiming that grace for our walk and not despairing because of feelings of inadequacy or sinfulness. In baptism, we are gifted with every grace needed to take hold of the love of God so that we can grow and walk in holiness.
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But it is not only up to us to remember our baptism. The beauty is this: our baptism also remember us. It follows us and marks us and claims us for Christ. It unrelentingly calls us back again and again to the graces offered there, when water washed away our sins and clothed us in Christ. It calls us and beckons us to return again to the blood and water that flowed from Christ’s side. It keeps us and holds us and asks us again to remember and celebrate the gratuitous gift of mercy.
It calls, and we answer.
Remember your baptism, for it remembers you.
Shannon Lacy is a wife to a theology student and the mother of their first daughter. She is a recent convert to the Catholic faith.