The two year old, spotting his sister in a role of importance, began slipping her gifts under the pew. My sunglasses, the van keys, somebody’s left shoe- all them them get slipped under the pew, with the increasingly louder whispers of “Here! Here!” The nine year old first tries to ignore the offerings, then starts bending down to retreive them- with the jar of holy oil still in her hands. My heart stops at least six million times during the 20 minute baptism.
Father then says the prayer of exorcism over the baby. She lets out a short cry, which I take as a good sign. She then (loudly) fills her diaper. I am unsure how to read this. Other than praying that the diaper holds up, because although the baby is actually wearing two baptismal gowns at once, they’re both white(ish) and certain to show the results of any diaper malfunctions. A child behind me begins screaming, and I can only assume it’s the three year old, wailing at the injustice of a bonus round of church. I wonder if I can convince Father to conduct a do-over on the exorcism part of The Jude’s baptism, just in case it didn’t take the first time.
The two year old has now spotted the other family in the pew next to us, who have brought their adorable little girl to be baptized. The little girl is probably about 8 months old, is fat and gorgeous, and has John-Luke wrapped around her little finger. He bulldozes his way next to her and begins waving his hand 3 centimeters from her face and yelling, “Hi! Hi! Hi!!” She appears confused and embarrassed for him. So do her parents.
Despite the growing din of the collective children, Father bravely pushes on, pouring water over the babies heads, anointing them with oil, administering the blessing for the mother (which made me cry), the father (also made me cry) and all assembled (didn’t cry, but only because I was trying to Jedi mind trick the six year old and the four year old into stopping the round of pew wrestling they were engaged in. Didn’t work).
Then done. Original Sin out, Sanctifying Grace in, newest member of the Body of Christ kissed and photographed and fawned over.
As people slowly filed out of the Sanctuary, and I gathered up all the matchbox cars, straightened bent missalettes, repacked contents of purses and diaper bags, and said our goodbyes to the priest, I thought that despite its failure to even remotely resemble the baptism of my dreams, it didn’t matter. That’s the beauty of the Catholic Church- it contains the fullness of the Truth for all people, those in picture perfect Sacrament land and those, like St. John the Baptist, who are in the Wilderness.
Even the kneeler slamming, diaper filling, dubiously civilized sort of Wilderness I call home.
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