Baptism Changes Everything
He looked at me and said, “If we get married, we’ll have children, and you’ll want to baptize those children in the Catholic Church. I won’t let you and you’ll hate me, and everything we have now will be for nothing.”
I knew in my heart that he was right.
*Note: this blog was written for Motherhood Through the Mysteries, @motherhoodthroughthemysteries. Visit motherhoodthroughthemysteries.com/mtm-podcast to hear from other mothers as we journey through the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
We had been together for four years trying to reconcile my increasing devotion to Jesus and His Catholic Church with his devout Protestant upbringing. Baptism was a main point of contention. I had read the Scriptures and studied the early Church Fathers, and one thing was clear: Across the board, early Christian practice was infant baptism. Jesus commanded it, the early Church understood it, and the faithful participated in sacramental baptism, as they do to this day. I had tabbed my Bible, filled charts with early Church Father quotations, and made a serious attempt to prove the Catholic Church wrong. It was through this very attempt at disproving the Church — many times on different subjects — that I had become increasingly Catholic.
With sadness, conviction, and urgency in my voice, I said, “I wouldn’t risk losing you for some symbol. This is real. Baptism is a sacrament, and it changes the person. It changes everything.”
After four years, we called it quits; we knew that God was not calling us to marriage and that, as difficult as it was, we needed to trust the Lord with our lives and our vocations. My heart is forever thankful to this Christian man whose devotion to God and the Word led me home to the Church. I would have never studied so much had it not been for love, and neither of us had expected that I would find a greater love in the Catholic Church. I had come to understand that She is one with Jesus, and there was no turning back.
Three years later, I met my husband. Ante is tall, dark, and handsome. Passionate, energetic, and kind. Hardworking, driven, prudent, virtuous, prayerful, and Catholic. I could go on; he was everything I had ever prayed for in a package I could have never imagined. We were engaged roughly four months after we met and married six months after we were engaged. We hoped to conceive immediately.
On our first date, Ante had asked me how many kids I wanted. “Seven, at least,” I’d said confidently. “Excellent” was his response.
Thinking about that first meeting never ceases to put a smirk on my face. We were both open and straightforward about who we had been, who we had become, and who we wanted to be. We both wanted sainthood through the relentless pursuit of obedience to the Will of God and His Church. I had finally met a man who loved the Church as much as I do.
Once we were married, it took us a year and a half to conceive our son. Though there were times in those early days when I felt discouraged, I took the struggle as an opportunity to trust God more deeply.
My husband’s confidence never wavered, and here we are: Ilija just turned 19 months, and he is the absolute light of our lives. Our daughter is due in July.
We scheduled Ilija’s baptism and planned the entire day months before he was born. Some family and friends thought we were crazy; they feared that if something were to happen, we would have to cancel the baptism, and it would cause us more pain. The way I saw it: I would live each day celebrating this life I was carrying, and if, God forbid, anything was to happen, canceling the baptism would be the least of my pain. My heart and conscience urged me to baptize Ilija as soon as possible.
I went into labor one week before my due date, so Ilija was baptized at three weeks. Sure, I had some anxiety: It was flu season, he was an infant, and there were lots of people. But I remained resolute, and my husband reassured me that God would protect our little one and that we would be cautious: He would stay with me.
The big day arrived. I was up at 6 a.m., eager and excited. Ilija wore the gown Ante was baptized in. He was fussy leading up to the baptism itself, but Ante rocked him, and we managed. When it came time to approach the side of the altar where the baptismal font stood, Ilija was quiet. I was beaming and teary-eyed. My son was about to be transformed, and we were making our promise to raise him in the faith — to love him, as best we could, as God loves him. We were thankful for a devoted godfather, Ante’s brother (as our Croatian custom has it, his future wife will become the godmother).
Ilija smiled twice, first at the anointing with the oil of the catechumens and then while receiving the blessing with the holy water. Ante and I looked at one another with expressions that said, “Did you see that?!”
The same grace and cleansing through baptism, which had been gifted to me as an infant, one day leading me to full communion with the Catholic Church, had now been gifted to my son.
It isn’t difficult to notice the degradation in our world, but in contrast, I have observed the rising of men and women of devout faith coming together, trying to live like the Holy Family. It is precisely this obedience to the Will of God through His Church that gives me peace and confidence that our children will be OK, protected, and guided by the Father in a journey that begins with an openness to life, and baptism.
As we pray this Luminous Mystery of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, we are given the grace to live out the vows of our sacramental baptism: to renounce Satan, all his works, and all his prompts. And with that — because we cannot separate the two — we are given the grace of obedience to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.