Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Pharisee In Me

About a month ago, I did the thing I shouldn't do and engaged in a Facebook debate.....because we all know that's productive.

I didn't know it was a debate when I commented, but it's just so darn hard to walk away when it turns into one and you're TRYING TO SAY SOMETHING :P

A mom asked for opinions on baptism timelines...which seems to be heating up as a conversation piece as we enter Lent and there's a mix of what dioceses do in terms of Baptism during Lent.

I commented that I appreciated the model of the Greek Orthodox Church giving a set time of six weeks when the mother is then welcomed into the church with a special blessing and baptism can then happen because I feel it honors that need to heal and recover from childbirth, but still moves with prudent haste towards baptism.

What I got back was pretty strongly worded, and Catechism citing content on why I was basically taking the souls of my children into my own hands if I didn't get it done before I was even up to sitting through mass.  Maybe that's an exaggeration, but not by much.

Commenters went on to tell me that I was presuming on God's mercy to think I could wait what I thought was reasonable because:

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.60 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.61 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.62 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
 But they skipped the next bit:

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
 I left that conversation feeling so disheartened.  Especially as the mom of two souls who passed in utero and the foster mom of one sweet girl who I took to mass every week for 2.5 years without the ability to baptize her.  I was being told my belief in obedience to the pastor on whether or not to baptize during Lent was misplaced obedience and that I was foolhardy to put so much reliance on God's mercy over making haste to the point of leaving a parish over it.

In the moment I blocked the conversation from my feed, I felt something inside me break.  I thought this, this is how people leave the Church.  I felt so hopeless and sad for my dead babies.  I felt like rules were overpowering mercy, and I just cried over it all.  As I lay there and dried my tears, I wondered, what if this had been the last thread holding me to the Church?  What if this had been the thing that had broken in me that felt unfixable?  What if these surely good and holy women were the precipitation of my downfall?

They wouldn't have even known it.  But they could have been, even with every good intention.

There's a tension between mercy and truth.  We must always always reach for the truth, and the layered beauty of our tradition and Catholic heritage are so so good.  But, where are we placing our interpretation of the rules or preferences over compassion?  Where am I failing to see that God's mercy is not to be outdone, and I'm not the boss of it?

Where am I drawing a line in the sand over a timetable that God never put in place?

I'm struggling with finding those answers inside myself, but I'm trying to move towards a default of seeking to understand before being understood.  Because even when it's an inflexible rule, seeking to be heard before listening will never win a heart, and that should be the business we're in.


  1. I've missed hearing from you. And I am grateful to be reminded by you that when we are making an argument, we can never know completely where a person is coming from or how they are feeling. We must be so careful with our words.

  2. I was baptized at about 6 weeks are these folks saying that my parents should have had me baptized sooner? I don't have a child (yet) but I'm not sure that I would feel comfortable having a newborn baby around that many people. It's even harder in winter!

  3. Oh, I feel what you're saying so strongly.

  4. Yes, Yes, Yes! This is exactly why I haven't joined the Church! Thank you for voicing all of this and for your example of what it truly means to be Catholic :)


I welcome positive, supportive sharing in this community. God bless!