Sunday's baptisms: 15 babies, 30 parents, 200 people

Sunday's baptisms: 15 babies, 30 parents, 200 people April 3, 2011

That was the tally, roughly, for this Sunday’s baptism, which looked a little like this:

I’d mentioned this large group in a post on Saturday, and some people were shocked. I was a little apprehensive about it myself — my wife, “Minister of the Towel and Oils” had misgivings, too. The last time I’d baptized a large group, 12, it was a madhouse.  Between the bawling babies and chattering godparents and laughing and thigh-slapping friends and neighbors, I should have used a megaphone instead of a microphone.

This time, thankfully, it was much saner.

There was a steady hum throughout much of the ritual — which, from “What name do you give your child” to “Go in peace” took about 45 minutes — but the throng was largely respectful and appreciative.   I credit that to my pre-ritual announcement, which laid down the law and went something like this:

“Okay.  We have a large group here this Sunday — a VERY large group.  I’m going to ask a couple things.  First, be patient.  Second, be respectful.  And third, be prayerful.  Ladies and gentlemen, I want to remind you: this is not a catering hall or a beer garden.  This is a house of God.  And we are in the presence of Jesus Christ, in the tabernacle.  We are celebrating something here, but it’s a sacrament we are celebrating.  It’s not a party.  Keep the conversation to a minimum. I’m going to ask that you be mindful of where we are and what we are doing.  Take all the pictures you want, but stay in one place.  Don’t run around like paparazzi chasing Britney Spears.  And with some cooperation and common sense, this should go very smoothly.  Okay?”

And, it did.

Baptisms, like weddings, tend to draw a lot of people and family members who don’t regularly go to church.  They’re happy, sometimes raucous affairs.  It can be a challenge to set the right tone and keep things on track.  A lot of times, people just don’t know any better.

But sometimes, a little discipline can only help.

Now I know why nuns always carried rulers.

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8 responses to “Sunday's baptisms: 15 babies, 30 parents, 200 people”

  1. Well done! You didn’t just give rules; you explained why the rules were there. Congratulations on making the liturgy a respectful one, and prayerful for all who wanted to pray.

  2. My “personal best” shortly after I was ordained in 1979 was 27 babies at the same Easter season Sunday afternoon service. (Baptisms had been discouraged during Lent, and had sort of “stacked up” for right after Easter!)

    The church was packed, but for such ceremonies we always used to have musician and cantor come: it not only allowed some congregational singing but music (whether congregational, instrumental, or solo voice) kept the “buzz” down during the periods of individual ministry within the rite. Just getting that many sets of parents and godparents to-and-from the font for the baptisms took almost 40 minutes!).

    All in all, it was a very long afternoon! But a memorable one.

  3. 23 in both English and Spanish was my record. I almost was wishing for a conveyor belt from the sanctuary to the font ; )

  4. I did 5 once, & I thought that was too many!. And I sure wish I had laid down the law beforehand like you did! Most were there because their grandparents wanted the baby baptized.

  5. You were certainly a busy man! WOW! that is a lot of babies all at one time. And the babies won’t even remember it—but the parents, godparents and grandparents will. :o)

  6. God bless you for your ministry!

    This post reminds me of two very different things. First, during parents’ meetings and rehearsals for First Eucharist, I always remind parents that this First Eucharist is celebrated at a Mass. In fact, in our parish, it is celebrated at a regular Parish Mass. Our pastor believes that the community should celebrate sacraments together.

    I remind them that this is not a dance recital or sports game. I also ask them to remind their friends and family who do not attend Mass or are not Catholic to remain respectful and reverent. We also then make an announcement before Mass to retain prayerful quiet for others preparing for Mass. It’s not perfect, but it’s helped.

    On another note, I wish you’d performed our daughter’s baptism. There were “only” 5 or 6 babies baptized but it might as well have been a conveyor belt. It was very rote and based on a lot of lines. We all left deflated — “At least she’s baptized” was the general refrain during the rest of the day. I’ve been to larger baptisms that retained the joy of the sacrament, sadly hers didn’t.

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