“You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand the commitment you are undertaking?”
The day you had your child baptized, you heard these words. The priest or deacon asked you this question, and you answered, “I do.” Baptism is essential for newborns since through this sacrament they become members of God’s family through the washing away of original sin and their rebirth in Christ, yet this outpouring of grace does not end with the child, but overflows into the family.
The baptism of a child is a crucial, grace-filled moment in the life of the infant’s family, in particular for his or her parents. It is a moment of commitment to Christ and His Church. It is a moment for parents to recognize their primary role in the religious education of their children and their essential role in his or her lifelong spiritual wellbeing.
Unfortunately many parents fail to live out this commitment. Parents cannot completely delegate the responsibility for the religious education of their children to another person, be it a catechist Sunday morning at the local parish or a religion teacher at school. These catechists aid parents in their responsibility, they cannot replace it.
If children do not learn about God at home, hear their parents speak of God’s presence in their lives and do not see their parents at prayer, in particular faithfully attending Sunday Mass, the children will be spiritually impoverished. Just as good parents ensure their children are fed, do their homework and have healthy extracurricular activities, good Christian parents look out for the spiritual wellbeing of their child, which is after all, the most important aspect of the child’s life.
The faith is passed on at home by word and example, strengthened with religious education at the parish and manifested at Sunday Mass. Parents who live out the commitment to pass on the faith to their children recognizing their spiritual responsibility over their children make good Christian parents, and the children will benefit enormously for life.
[written for The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of Savannah]
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