Maybe when you're in a particularly bad mood you even watch the priest baptize an infant and feel a little skeptic. The only people excited about the sacrament as the obnoxious photographer/grandparents. They only care for societal purposes and Facebook posts. The baby doesn't have a clue what's going on, let alone where his right hand is. Can he even see color? It leads us to wonder, How can we base our salvation on a choice we didn’t make ourselves? How can we say we are a child of God when we don’t even remember the sacrament taking place? Why do we even hand on this faith anyway if it doesn't mean anything from the start?
Fast forward. Once upon a time, I was dating a Baptist, a gentleman who treated me like a queen and I still respect very much. The first few months of getting to know each other and learning about each other’s faiths were so fun and interesting. We both grew in understanding of the world, of each other and even in our personal walk with the Lord. We were still able to pray together because we both professed Jesus as Lord and Savior.
After a while, however, we wanted to start worshipping together on Sundays. Road block. I’m a firm believer that, in dating, God’s will can be as clear as a stoplight: red for stop, Yellow for yield and green for Go. When it came to Sunday worship, we were both open, but we never made it happen. (Yellow light). What’s more, is it led to the conversation of raising children, where would they go to church? What denomination would they be? I had romantic notions that our child would be an “Evangelical Catholic” – sort of like Renesme was both vampire and human. I know, I know, I should have known it was a bad idea.
Unfortunately, the discussion led us to realize that he wanted his child to be part-Catholic even less than he wanted his wife to be all Catholic. This is mostly because for Baptists, as the label implies, Baptism is incredibly important. As Catholics, we believe that Baptism is important and essential but there’s nowhere in Canon law that states the baby has to be Baptized within the first 6 months or even first year of life.
Fortunately, I started to realize how much baptizing an infant meant to me. It was more than a part of my family traditions. It was part of what I always imagined as part of my family’s life; giving my children the fullness of my Catholic faith which is a big part of who I would be as their mother. I wanted more than just a christening or dedication; I wanted salvation by claiming my child for Christ.
This is not meant to be a full, doctrinal explanation of the economy of grace in Baptism. Nor am I going to quote the zillions of places in the New Testament where the necessity of Baptism is emphasized. OK, maybe just once.
"He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved."
First of all, baptism is a washing away of original sin. As far as I know, there aren’t any stories of anybody actually drowning in the Bible (besides some pigs possessed by demons.) (See here.) Baptism as forgiveness of sins is essential to salvation - I'm nearly sure that all Christians believe that. But whether or not Baptism can be celebrated as a child, infant, or only as a fully reasoning adult ready to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, has been debated.
We believe in salvation of everyone through Baptism. We believe in something called Sacramental Grace. It’s a grace we receive when we consume Jesus in the Eucharist, when we confess our sins, anytime we participate in a Sacrament with an open heart. I've talked about grace as a sort of electric shock, like a Power Up that gives us the ability to be like God. Sacramental grace is more like a slow-release bulb that you put in a plant when you go on vacation. It drips out grace as it is needed, diffused for your entire lifetime...
In Baptism, our parents promise to raise us in the faith. As Baptized children, it’s hard for us to really understand how different our life could have been without Baptism. Would you have been raised to bless animals in October, understanding that all God’s creation is worthy of blessing? Would you have been raised to go to mass every Sunday and confession twice a year? Would you know the pattern and habit of waiting, repentance, fasting and growth that we learn during Advent and Lent? Think of your life wihout those ashes on your forehead every year. Your religion and Catholic faith has formed you in ways you don’t even realize.
Not to be dramatic or anything, but Original Sin is like a disease of the soul. The catechism reminds us that Original Sin is a condition from which we must be saved (through Baptism.) Salvation has 90% to do with Jesus. Whether you’re a baby, or a grown adult, your Baptism is about Jesus’ love for you. Baptism is less about “sin” and more about simply being Human.
Baptism is salvation. Can those who aren’t Baptized go to heaven? Sure. Can those who are Baptized still go to hell? Yes. But with the grace of Baptism we are made new from the start. We are more likely to follow God. We are more likely to listen to our conscience. We are given a chance to receive what we need from the beginning of our lives so that the grace can flavor our life with His love. Our worth is decided in Him, not in what we do. We will be sanctified in our life through His death.
And that is what the white garment stands for.