One of the defining aspects of Christianity is our belief in Baptism. Without baptism we can not come to know God and be a part of his kingdom. We hear our Lord Jesus tell us, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit." (John 3:5). Baptism is an important aspect of all Christian churches. As Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, we believe in the necessity of Baptism for salvation. I know nothing about the theology of Baptism from the numerous Protestant perspectives, so I won't even attempt to go there. I want to focus here on the Catholic perspective.
Catholics (and some Protestant faiths) believe in infant baptism. This isn't my focus here either, but for anyone reading this who is not familiar with why we believe in infant baptism, I'll just mention a few of the reasons why the Catholic church teaches this. First there is the Scripture passage I quoted above. That's the basis for baptism itself. Beyond that there are four things I can point to that defend infant baptism:
Okay, moving beyond that argument ... I don't want to dwell on it, it's not supposed to be my focus ...
My focus really is the desire to be baptised and what happens if death comes before baptism can take place. Up until now, I have built this piece around Scripture, which is how I prefer to tackle things if I expect that non-Catholics will be reading this. In this case, I want to lay the groundwork through Scripture and from this point on will probably lean more on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
So, the Catholic Church teaches that baptism can happen in three ways: baptism by water, baptism by blood, and baptism by desire. By water is obviously how most of us were baptized. Baptism by blood is through death for the sake of the faith, martyrdom. But what is this baptism by desire? From the Catechism:
The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. (CCC1258)
As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children Come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. (CCC 1261)
These two paragraphs from the Catechism taken together show the hope there is that God's mercy will bring these children into Heaven with Him through the baptism of desire. I'm not always the best at putting into words what seems clear to me, so I apologize if the connections aren't very clear. I read those two paragraphs in the context of the Scripture passages above and others like them and from the other traditions of the Church. I think "context" is very key to this understanding.
It is through reading the Scriptures and from reading the Church's teachings through the Catechism that I can find peace in trusting my child's salvation to God's mercy. I would never presume to know God's mercy, but I have prayed about my deep desire to have God take Casey Marie into heaven with Him. Through his mercy, I know that my desire as a parent to have baptised my child if he/she had lived long enough can be enough to bring about Baptism by desire. It all depends on the mercy of God, and I have great faith in Him and His mercy.
In my prayers I have also prayed for many other children who were lost to miscarriage, both those I know about and all those babies and families I don't know. I have also included all those children lost to abortion. In God's mercy I pray that they are all saints in heaven, praising God with all the angels and saints.
In closing I want to mention a small book my sister-in-law sent me after our miscarriage. It is called An Empty Cradle, A Full Heart: Reflections for mothers and fathers after miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death by Christine O'Keeffe Lafser. The books is comprised of various short reflections accompanied by a Scripture passage and all divided into three sections: reflections for mothers, reflections for fathers, and reflections for both. Near the end of the book one reflection in particular stood out to me and I will share it here along with it's accompanying Scripture passage:
Some people say it is a shame. Others even imply that it would have been better if the baby had never been created. But the short time I had with my child is prescious to me. It is painful now, but I still wouldn't wish it away. I prayed that God would bless us with a baby. Each child is a gift, and I am proud that we cooperated with God in the creation of a new soul for all eternity. Although not with me, my baby lives. (p. 234)
For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. 1 Samuel 1:27
Thank you for reading this. I hope it has brought some food for thought or some comfort to you if you have ever been in a similar situation to mine. May the Lord bless all of you and may He bless all the little children in Heaven and on Earth.