the red dress club:: Red Writing Hood: "Water gives life. It also takes it away. Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction - inspired by one or both of these statements ..."
I never intended to baptize my child. As a little girl, I myself never really believed in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit the way Sister Celestine expected me to in second grade. And yet I found myself there, in the church where my parents were married, where I was baptized, where I received my first communion, where I was dragged to countless holy day masses by the teachers who thought that I might end up in hell anyway.
I was there holding my beautiful baby girl, surrounded by people who believed in this whole thing so much more than I did, looking around at the breathtaking stained glass depictions of saints whose names I did not remember and the giant hanging crucifix with the bleeding guy hanging there making me feel guilty.
My mother insisted that we do this because if you are a Catholic you believe that babies who are not baptized cannot get into heaven, which always struck me as unjust and kind of absurd because that would imply that a rapist who says sorry and was baptized has a better shot at it than this little creature who had yet to utter one word that would imply an understanding of the ways people can hurt one another.
My brother was there. He and his wife made the trip from Florida because I had to choose someone to be the Godparents. The Godparents are supposed to be the people who would give the child the best Christian upbringing if she lost her parents and since they were married and happy and stable I thought they’d be the best choice, but I can’t imagine that they’d ever love her like I did.
The priest asked that we hold her on her back with her head over marble fountain of water and he read some passages and said something about washing all our sins away, which according to the Church is necessary if she wants to get to heaven since she was born of sin (her father and I are not married). Then he poured a couple of drops of water over her head, which startled her a little because it was cold but she didn’t really seem to mind. She was too engrossed in the whirling fans that gently moved the air at least 50 feet above her.
I wanted this to be a meaningful experience for me. I wanted to feel some kind of blessing or reverence for this whole ceremony. But I remember nothing but being resentful to an angry God who I didn’t really believe should punish her for the sins of the rest of us. She would have plenty of time to learn about the savage nature of people before having to choose which path she would walk down. I thought about some of what the priest said about how the water ensures her eternal life and cleanses her eternal soul. But what did any of this really mean anyway? Wouldn’t I just turn her cynical and faithless like my upbringing had turned me? What if she used religion as a crutch to perpetrate awful despicable deeds like so many other so-called “Christians” did throughout history and even today? What if she denounced God altogether and was content to live this life and have it be over when she died? Who would cleanse her soul then? Or would it even matter?