It may be my outrageous traditionalism, but I do like Godparents to be baptised. I can live without the requirement for them to be confirmed, although it is nice (but Oh, so rare). However, if someone wants to be a Godparent, then I’ll baptise them – no problem – no question. Also (and I wonder whether this is the wrong bit) – no preparation – just dive in and swim with the sacrament.
So last night at 6.30, at the end of a loooong and already tiring day, I am in Church with 2 blokes in their late twenties, the parents of the child they will next month be Godparents to, one of their wives and a ‘mate’ who at the beginning was smirking at the whole idea.
We could have had a couple of weeks of preparatory talks, an Alpha Course, a full RCIA-type preparation, but would that have changed anything? God will work in these people regardless of what I do beforehand, and I had the curious sensation that it wouldn’t have worked anyway. So, administer the sacrament, speak of it, teach it as you do it and see what God lets happen.
…and do you know what? It was fantastic. It was transformative. In this small huddle of people, we spoke of God’s love, of salvation, of the eucharist and baptism. We administered the oil of baptism, the water, the oil of chrism, the white robe and the candle (never scrimp on the symbols of salvation I say) and it was quite lovely. In hushed tones, we spoke of God’s redemptive love for his people, and even by the end smirking boy was not smirking anymore. but had gained an insight into something special.
There are times when we become too formulaic about mission, when we are too prescriptive about the way we administer the sacraments, and there is a temptation to shut God out. So many times in the book of Acts, they did the work first – baptised and then taught. This is not a pattern for all, but in this case it was right.
For families we ask people to come to Mass at least 3 times before we baptise. It was formulated as a deanery policy, but I strongly suspect I am the only one in the deanery who actually implements it (which I did immediately after Mondaye III). No matter, it works for us: families have a much better idea of who we are and where we are at, and they are consequently much more relaxed, and it starts to spill over into Mass attendance as well.
Christ was free and easy with his distribution of the sacraments, because the grace of God was free and available to all; both the sinners and the virtuous received God’s love equally. Now all I have to do is to follow these two up and keep them in…
…and that will be the challenge!