Should I delay Baptism for my children until they are old enough to choose for themselves?

Ask a Carmelite Sister…

Dear Sister,

My wife and I are thinking of waiting until our newborn is old enough to be an active part of her baptism.  We see our roles as parents as preparing her for that great moment when she embraces the faith. I am wondering, do you know of other Catholic parents who are doing this?

Dear Friend

Thank you for your question. In it I see a father’s heart wanting to do the very best for his little baby. Yes, from time to time people have told me that they don’t want to baptize their children as infants. They want to wait until the child is an adult or at least old enough that he or she can choose. Would you like to know what I think of every time I hear that?

Here are my thoughts based on Catholic doctrine. We are all acutely aware that our culture is, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, becoming a culture of death. Or should I say, it already is. All of us are bombarded daily, with sights and sounds – on billboards, on computer screens, on every kind of media – that are not life-giving.  Like the proverbial frog that was put in the pot of water and swam around joyfully, never even noticing that the heat was turned up higher and higher until it killed him and cooked him, the sights and sound we see around us are getting for lack of a better word, more and more pagan.  Like the frog, we are joyfully going about our daily routines, in the pot of this world and don’t even notice that the heat has been turned up higher and higher. That real sin is looking back at us as we view so many things as we go through our daily life. It is a fact.

Now, our children (we Carmelites teach in schools from California to Florida) were born into this milieu.  It’s all they know.  . It is very sad to see their frame of reference so narrow, so imbued with a culture that is dying spiritually. I’ve spoken to children who have never even heard of a swim suit that isn’t a bikini. They think it is normal and right to wear them.  Is it? What do you think? On what is your thinking based?   I’m using bikinis only as one example. You get the point.

This is scary. I can only imagine what parents feel when they think of the precious infant growing up in this type of culture. Some parents, themselves the product of that same culture, can’t pass on what they themselves do not know. Other parents choose to home school their children. God bless them. Some move away to smaller towns away from the big cities of America.

Baptism is not just a beautiful family event when the infant comes to church for the first time with godparents, the priest arrives and pours water and says prayers, everyone has a good feeling about the day, and then some kind of celebration occurs in the home. It is SO MUCH MORE! Every human being, every tiny infant, has a soul and Baptism brings God’s grace streaming into that soul and we know that grace is defined as “a supernatural gift of God.” This brings about the Divine Indwelling within the baby’s soul. This gift of grace is HUGE. It is UNLIMITED. Sanctifying grace enters the soul during the Sacrament of Baptism.

This means that there is a new, intimate, personal, loving, wonderful special relationship between God and that little baby.  That little one now has, in a new and extraordinary way, the presence of the Holy Trinity within that little soul. And as the child grows up, yes into teen years, into young adult years, all the way to senior years, the Holy Spirit is present in an exceptionally personal way.  Now here is my point. God is working from within that child, guiding, helping, forming, teaching, and loving. This is something bigger than the words we have to describe it.

How can a parent deny this to their children? I don’t get it.

Thank you for your question and until next time,

Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.

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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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