March 11, 2008

Feeling Mean

Many people have a story about how some Catholic priest was mean to them, was dismissive, or took them lightly. Sometimes these are catastrophic events in the life of a Christian, and sometimes they drive people away from the practice of their faith. Therefore, as I've been trying to learn the trade and pick up the identity of parish priest these past six months, there's always a voice in my head saying, don't be that guy.

Sometimes I walk on the edge of this fear when dealing with requests for infant baptism. If people come from an hour away and say they want to baptize their baby in our parish because of some historical connection, I usually ask them if they belong to the parish where they do live. When they admit that they haven't really thought about it since their Confirmation or wedding, I advise them to explore and join a parish where they live, and then think about baptizing their baby there.

I try to do this in an encouraging and gentle way, knowing that the baptism of a new baby is a good opportunity to hook people back into their faith, but sometimes it seems like people only hear a refusal to take care of them, rather than good advice about how to bring up their child as a Christian. Sometimes I worry that all they hear is, this priest refuses to baptize my baby.

4 comments:

Barb, sfo said...

It is a fine line. But sacraments are not candy to be handed out "wherever and whenever." Why do we act as though they are? Receiving a sacrament involves accepting a responsibility.

Pia said...

I agree with Barb. Don't worry about it. You are not a waiter in a restaurant. Just stay along that line. And if they get riled up about it, then you have to be firm, which they will see as "mean". You have a responsibility to Jesus, too.

Anonymous said...

It's not their baptism though, it's the baby's.I don't get this,never have. Even if they neglect the child's relgious ed.the child has been baptized. That'simportnat, isn't it?

Please explain. I am really confused.

Charles of New Haven said...

Thanks everyone, for the comments and encouragement.

My answer, Anonymous, is both yes and no. Yes, it is a good thing that a child is baptized. But, on the other hand, baptism is an act of faith and an expression of desire for faithfulness to God. In the case of infant baptism, parents and sponsors profess that faith on behalf of the child. Now, if these aren't associated with the community of faith, which is the body of Christ in the world, how can they make that profession of faith on behalf of someone else? It's a hard question sometimes. That's the dilemma.