Monday, June 23, 2008

Cool New Website!!

My favorite local radio station has just rolled out a brand new (and much improved) website. I have only just now gone to take a look, but I can already see that there is a lot to check out on it. Here's the address:

You can listen to the station through the website (which is what I do at work in the afternoons). Also, they are posting diocesan events and podcasts of many of those events (see Events Calendar under Community). Some things to check out:

First, Theology on Tap is currently going on and all are being recorded and posted as podcasts on the site.

Second, beginning this past April 1 the Bishop's Cathedral Series began. Chris and I missed the April lecture that the Bishop did, but we managed to get to the May lecture that Fr. Baima from Chicago did (excellent, go listen to it!!) and to the June lecture. The Bishop will be doing the final session for this year next week on July 1. It too will be posted as a podcast eventually.

Also, the calendar for Rock the Collar is finally posted!! This is an awesome ministry that our seminarians began last year. Check out the schedule and go see them if they are stopping at a parish near you. It's great to meet them and give them encouragement in their vocation.

Another word about the podcasts, you do have to register on the site to have access to the podcasts. I know it gets difficult to have so many accounts everywhere but this is one that is worth it. If nothing else the Bishop's series contains some great theology. Our own Bishop (doing the first and fourth lectures) is a great speaker and, although I missed the first talk, I am sure it was great. I know for a fact that Fr. Baima's lecture was awesome! Go check it out if you have a chance, I will be soon! I want to hear the first talk Bishop Gainer did and I want to listen to Fr. Baima's talk a second time.

Hope you enjoy looking through the Real Life Radio website. Lots of good stuff!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Miscarriage and Baptism

It has been over two months since my husband and I miscarried our first child. I have previously written about our loss and in that previous post listed several topics that I felt called to discuss. One of those topics is the Sacrament of Baptism.

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:
  • From the Gospels: "Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' After he placed his hands on them, he went away." (Matthew 19:13-15; see also the same story in Mark 10:13-16 and Luke 18:15-17). Jesus wanted the children brought to Him and there is no reason to think that He wouldn't want them brought to him now.
  • The book of Acts chapter 2 is one of my favorite parts of Acts, which is also one of my favorite Scripture books. In this chapter is when the Holy Spirit comes down on the Apostles at Pentacost and when St. Peter gives his first long speech/sermon. After his speech, the people ask what they should do. "Peter [said] to them, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.'" (Acts 2: 38-39). In other parts of Acts there is mention of thousands being baptized at a time after similar conversion moments with Peter or Paul or other disciples. Whenever a large crowd is baptized it is reasonable to assume that women and children were also in the crowd. So children and infants were being baptized from the beginnings of the Church.
  • The writings of the early church fathers also point to baptism of infants and children. They don't write to defend it, however, because it was a general practice; they didn't need to defend it. These writers in the 2nd century were the disciples of the disciples, only two or three generations away from those who heard the words of Jesus first hand. The little I have read from the early church fathers shows a continuous stream of understanding from very early times with very little, or no, discrepancy between writers (the "tradition" part of Catholic teaching). If you want to know more I highly recommend Stephen Ray's book Crossing the Tiber. He includes a LOT of the early church fathers' writings.
  • Finally, don't parents make decisions for their children all the time? One thing I have heard from a lot of people about baptism is that they don't want to make that choice for their children, thus the child should be at an age of reasoning to make that decision themselves. I find a lot wrong with this statement. Parents decide their children's bedtimes, schedules, what they eat, where they go, what school they go to, clothes they wear, activities they can and can not participate in and more. They even make them go to church and Sunday School and so forth. I took a logic class in college as part of a philosophy track and I think there are a number of fallacies in this logic. Your religion is one of the most important things you can pass on to your children; it's why you teach them your faith, make them go to church and Sunday School and pray before meals, bed, etc. Thus in the Catholic church, parents understand that through baptism we are making a decision for our children that will be with them the rest of their lives. It's the parental thing to do.

    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.