The sacraments are an essential part of your child’s participation in God’s Family, the Church. Obviously, participating in God’s Family is not like participating in any earthly club or organization. There is something deeper and more meaningful going on; something that doesn’t just begin and end with us. Rather, our participation in the life of the Church begins with an invitation from God to become his children. We say yes to that invitation through our participation in the sacraments — in particular, the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, the Eucharist, and Confirmation.
This article will look briefly at Baptism, how you can explain it to your children, and how you can celebrate the significance of this great sacrament in your life and the lives of your children. There are also two chapters in our book that take a similar approach to the remaining Sacraments of Initiation. For additional information on preparing for Baptism and getting more out of the experience of the sacrament, see our book Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenting.
What Baptism Does
Baptism represents our first yes to God’s invitation to become his sons and daughters. Many of us were baptized as infants, and our parents, by saying yes to God for us, promised to teach us what it means to live as his children. Baptism does three things: it frees us from sin, enables us to be reborn as sons and daughters of God, and makes us part of God’s Family, which also commits us to the family business — as it were — which is to build the Kingdom of God.
With Baptism, your child has been given an incredible gift. Your child is transformed into a son or daughter of God! You will need to spend your life teaching your child how to appreciate this awesome gift so that he always remembers who he is. As a baptized person, your child is destined for an eternal life of happiness with God and the Communion of Saints.
Celebrating Your Spiritual Birthday
As such, Baptism is something to celebrate and continue celebrating throughout your life, just as you celebrate your birthday. In fact, in some ways, it is even more important than celebrating your birthday. The celebration of your physical birthday comes to an end when you pass away, but because Baptism represents your birth into the Family of God, this is one birthday we hope you and your children will celebrate for all eternity! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Bring out the pictures. Do you have pictures of your Baptism? Displaying in your home even small pictures of your Baptism and of your children’s baptisms can be a great reminder of that most important day. You’d be surprised how many spontaneous faith discussions are prompted when kids see these pictures.
Think about getting copies of your baptismal certificates from the parishes where you, your spouse, and your children were baptized and having them framed.
Use holy-water fonts in your home. When we go into church, we dip our fingers into the holy-water font and make the Sign of the Cross as a reminder of our baptism. You can get small, inexpensive holy-water fonts to place in your room and your children’s rooms and even near the front door of your home. Getting into the habit of blessing yourself with holy water when you leave your room or your home in the morning will remind your family that your Baptism makes you a child of God and that God is asking you to bring honor to his family name as you go about your school and work days.
Celebrate your patron saints’ feast days. Although it isn’t necessary, the Church strongly encourages the faithful to take the name of a saint who will be their special patron and will pray for them throughout their lives before God. Historically, a patron was someone who spoke for you to the king, who supported your work in some way, and who served to make your way in life smoother. A patron saint will pray for you before the King of heaven and earth, support and inspire you in your work of building the Kingdom of God, and help make your faith journey smoother both through his example and his prayers. Even if you weren’t named for a saint — or don’t know which saint you were named for — you can still choose a patron saint; someone whose example inspires you and whose intercession you would value. To choose a patron saint, simply ask that saint to be your patron and regularly talk to him in your prayer time.
Once you have chosen a special saint to be your patron, be sure to celebrate your relationship with that saint. If possible, go to Mass on your saint’s feast day. Perhaps you can have a special meal on that day. For younger children, it can be fun to do a craft project that reflects some aspect of the patron saint’s life and ministry. You might even obtain a relic — for instance, a small piece of an object that was touched by your patron saint — to serve as a physical reminder of that saint’s presence in your life. All of these ideas, and others like them, can be wonderful ways to remind yourself and your children to follow the example of your older brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Have a Baptism-day party. Having a Baptism-day party can be a wonderful way to celebrate your Baptism. If possible, go to Mass as a family on that day. Have a special meal with a special dessert to celebrate the sweetness of God’s love and grace. It can be meaningful to give a small, spiritually themed gift on this day; something that can help your child in his prayer life or faith development, such as a new rosary or Bible or another faith-based gift that will have some significance for your child. Celebrate this day for the special gift that it is. Incidentally, Baptism-day parties aren’t just for kids. Parents should make sure to celebrate their Baptism day too as a sign to their children of the ongoing importance of their baptismal identity.
Do your own thing. As we said at the beginning of this list, there aren’t any official rules for celebrating your Baptism day. What are some ways you can think of that would be special for your family to celebrate your Baptism days? Make a list of your ideas.
It might seem strange or overly pious to celebrate your Baptism or patronal feast day, especially if you didn’t grow up doing it. Remember that these ideas are not about putting on spiritual airs or pretending to be holier than other families on your block or in your parish. These are all just different ways you can bring a little more joy and grace into your life and say that your faith is something worth celebrating. As far as we’re concerned, we can always use another reason to celebrate in our lives. What better reason to celebrate than the gift of becoming a child of God?
Remember that although we all benefit from physical reminders of our faith, younger children in particular benefit from tangible reminders that God and their faith life have a real and positive impact on their daily lives. Celebrating the day on which your child became a child of God is a wonderful way to make a positive impression on your child of the importance of living his Christian identity in every aspect of his life. With a little thought and creativity, you can transform the occasion of your child’s Baptism from a once-in-a-lifetime event into an ongoing reminder of what it means to be and live as a child of God.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak’s Discovering God Together, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.