"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another Baptizing Expedition

In the above video, Maia baptizes herself (I didn't catch the "I baptize you" part, but you can hear the rest of the formula). Theologically, of course, this is problematic. But I have to admit I've been encouraging her to pretend to baptize herself, mostly because I have become her primary recipient of the sacrament, and I am getting tired of coming back from the Wilson Center fountain with wet hair.

The inevitable finally happened today. Maia had made a couple of "friends" at the fountain. So far in my experience at this fountain, there are very few native English-speakers and very few U.S. citizens. One of the boys was Asian and spoke to his mom in some Asian language (unfortunately, I know no languages from this part of the world and could not tell you where specifically they were from). The other boy's father might be a native English speaker... but with such an accent that I've never heard and had no way to place him. I suspect he's from somewhere in Europe. This little boy Lucas was probably about three years old.

Maia got it in her head to perform a baptism. I tried to dissuade her, intimating that she should "baptize" her purple ball instead. But, surprisingly, Lucas's father suggested that she baptize Lucas. Surprised, I asked, "Oh, has he already been baptized?" I was thinking that this might be the only reason that someone would want to play along with Maia's baptizing game. The response was, "No, he's not been baptized. But she's welcome if she wants to." I said, "Well, it will be a valid baptism," but the father looked like he didn't know (or care) what exactly I meant when I said that.

So I gave Maia the go-ahead for the baptism, but said, "Why don't you just pour the water on his arm?" The father then asked Lucas, "Lucas, would you like her to pour water on your head?" Lucas nodded with enthusiasm. So, it happened. Maia poured the water over his head.

And was completely silent. That's right, she didn't say anything. The matter was there, but where was the form? "Maia," I said, "you forgot the words!" So she tried again, and, again, successfully poured water without saying a word. This time the dad decided Lucas was probably wet enough. And as the pair waded away, Maia called out, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!"

But I'm pretty sure that wasn't a valid baptism after all. And, walking back to the dorm, I was reflecting that's probably a good thing. I appreciate Maia's evangelistic zeal, but I don't think this is really the way that Catholic baptisms should happen.

1 comment:

Clara said...

Actually, as I may have mentioned, I don't know if it's possible to baptize validly before you reach the age of reason. I mean, it's obviously great that Maia's so excited about Sacraments... but it seems sort of unlikely, don't you think, that a person who gets enthused about baptizing toys understands the Sacrament well enough to "intend what the Church intends" when baptizing a person? Admittedly that's always been a sort of difficult condition to make sense of, but still.

Interesting that the boy's father would be so agreeable to it, though. One wonders.