Dear Grace: I had a miscarriage after three and a half months of pregnancy. I have read that in order to go to heaven, you need to be baptized. Am I correct in thinking that my baby went to heaven even if he didn’t have a chance to get baptized?
Your concern for your baby’s salvation is so moving and truly demonstrates your loving, maternal care. The Church also, as a mother, watches over her children and wishes that all might arrive at that heavenly bliss with her Lord. Your question is unusual in that it seeks an answer regarding baptism and the attainment of heaven for an unborn child. Although the Church cannot pronounce with absolute certainty on the actual resting place of a child who dies before birth, we most certainly have every reason to believe that they do indeed go to be with God. There are numerous biblical passages that speak of the love and care that God has for every unborn child and these fill us with hope that, in His divine plan, He will always make a way for them to return to Him.
The mystery of life in the unborn is eloquently addressed by the Holy Father John Paul II in his inspiring and impassioned encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). There, he states the following:
Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth. All human beings, from their mothers' wombs, belong to God who searches them and knows them, who forms them and knits them together with His own hands, who gazes on them when they are tiny shapeless embryos and already sees in them the adults of tomorrow whose days are numbered and whose vocation is even now written in the “book of life” (cf. Ps 139: 1, 13-16). There too, when they are still in their mothers' wombs as many passages of the Bible bear witness they are the personal objects of God's loving and fatherly providence (n. 61).
The life of every individual is thus part of God’s divine plan. Listen to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5) and Job: “You have fashioned and made me; will you then turn and destroy me? Remember that you have made me of clay; and will you turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love; and your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:8-12).
We know, of course, that it was Jesus Himself who taught very clearly that “no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (Jn 3: 5). He was speaking of baptism and its necessity for salvation. The reason for its necessity is that it washes away the stain of original sin, which we are all born with. We notice that He said “no one” and this cannot be taken lightly, for every word that He uttered was for our good and our salvation
In the case of the unborn, however, neither the child nor the parents are able to ask for baptism for the child because he/she has not yet even been born. John Paul II emphasizes that it is unthinkable that “even a single moment of this marvelous process of the unfolding of life could be separated from the wise and loving work of the Creator.” Knowing all that we do about God and His infinite mercy, the Church is confidently filled with the hope that every innocent, defenseless unborn child is held in the Father’s loving arms and that we need not worry about their eternal salvation.
© Copyright 2005 Grace D. MacKinnon
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Grace MacKinnon holds an MA in theology and is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. Her new book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith is available in our online store. If you enjoy reading Grace’s column, you will certainly want to have this book, which is a collection of the first two years of “Dear Grace.” Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit her online at www.DearGrace.com.