My two-month old daughter, Emery, was recently baptized at a parish Mass and it was definitely a highlight of my time as a parent thus far, but probably not for the reason that you may think. In addition to our two-month old, we have a two and a half year old, Audrey. In the weeks leading up to the baptism we told Audrey about her own baptism and explained that she would see Father pour water on her little sister, and that Emery would receive a white garment and even a special candle. Needless to say, Audrey was excited for the big day. We had been practically counting down all week. In fact, she was up at 6:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, ready to go to church so that we could celebrate Emery’s baptism.
In addition to my role as dad for the morning, I needed to fulfill my responsibilities as a parish music director. We decided that Audrey would sit with the family in the front row (yes, a two-year old in the front row) and that I would join them during the homily. As Father began his homily, Audrey started to get pretty talkative so my sister-in-law decided to take Audrey to the hallway to get a little energy out. Once the homily was finished, Father Herb invited us to come to the baptismal font (next to the altar) accompanied by Emery’s Godparents. As we took our places around the font, suddenly a tiny voice erupted from the back of the church. “Wait for me! Wait for me! I want to come too!” The tiny voice was Audrey's and she was running down the center aisle. The entire church erupted in laughter and I was filled with a rush of joy that is hard to put into words. I don’t think Audrey had any concept that there were 650 people also in the room. She just knew she needed to get from point A to point B. To make it even “better,” her little two-year old legs couldn’t quite make it up the steps to the baptismal font without falling (twice). Once she finally arrived, Father gave her the prestigious job of holding the towel to dry her little sister’s head. Of course, the baptism was a beautiful, grace-filled moment and we were proud to welcome our second baby into the church.
Now that more than a week has passed, I have relived the moment of Audrey running down the aisle many times in my mind and in conversation with others. I love the excitement and exuberance she had about the baptism. So much so that she was willing to run down the aisle in front of hundreds of strangers to be a part of it. I found myself reflecting on the way that we as adults approach the Sacraments. Do we “run” to church with excitement to receive Jesus in the Eucharist? Do we shout “Wait for me!” to the priest that is leaving for the night after hearing confessions, because we so badly desire mercy and forgiveness? Do we go to weddings to really pray with the couple and witness the beauty of the Sacrament, rather than rushing to get to the party? Do we find baptisms at Mass an inconvenient addition of time, rather than a joy-filled welcoming of a new member?
Jesus gave us the Sacraments as gifts, and sometimes we can take them for granted. Perhaps we have a deep faith in what is happening, but we go through the motions. Because like so many things in life, we have done it dozens, if not hundreds of times. After seeing Audrey approach her sister’s baptism with such joy, it gave me a renewed sense of the grace and wonder that God provides through the Sacraments. Sometimes it takes the faith of a child to bring this to light.
As our girls grow older, I look forward to celebrating their other “firsts” as members of the church through the other Sacraments. If someday God calls either one of them to marriage, I pray that I will be walking down the aisle with them saying “Wait for us! We want to come to the banquet table too!”