Today the church celebrated the birth of John the Baptist and the Sacrament of Baptism was celebrated in each of the three communities within our parish. A month ago when Fr. Charlie announced he was being transferred, he reassured a young mom that her soon to be born baby would get baptized before he left. The very next week she delivered a premature baby boy. Today we got to see the little guy for the first time. Tiny and precious in the white baptismal gown that his own mother wore when she was baptized.
On a regular Sunday we may have 10 people present for Mass. Today we had many more, including more young children than normal. Add a baptism in the midst of the Mass and well, there you have it. A peaceful kind of chaos. The parents and God parents were standing up front and several of their children were going back and forth. At one point two of them were sitting/laying on the steps leading up to the altar when Fr. Charlie looked at them and said he hoped they would always be that relaxed in church. And he meant it. The next moment the 2 year old brother of the baby being baptized figured out how to get the kneeler unhinged and it came crashing down. His parents looked anxiously in his direction at the noise while Fr. Charlie said, "He's not crying, so don't worry." And the celebration continued.
The relaxed atmosphere allowed the holiness of the celebration to seep through the cracks of our humanity. The children's inability to remain seated and silent was accepted as part of the process. Their behaviour was not frowned upon. It simply was. More than once I noticed the mom of the new baby looking concerned, torn between remaining present in the Sacrament and scolding her children. Letting go of perfection, letting go of her children seemed so fitting for what we were celebrating.
Several moments stood out for me. One was when Fr. Charlie carried the baby to each person in the church and invited them to make the sign of the cross on the baby's forehead. Everyone from the elderly to the two old were invited to bless this child. When his turn came, the two year old gently brought his cheek down to rest it on his baby brother's forehead. His cheek stayed there a few moments longer than expected, long enough for the beauty of the moment to touch us all.
Then, at the end of the baptism Fr. Charlie laid the baby on the altar and had the parents stand behind it as we prayed a blessing on each of them. The sight of this precious baby, asleep on the altar, arms splayed out in total trust will stay with me a long time.