Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
As a young girl at St. Albert the Great School in Dearborn, Michigan, we wore blue uniform jumpers and beanies. The beanies covered our heads during morning Mass.
When our family moved to another part of Dearborn, we transferred to St Alphonsus parish, and I traded the blue jumper for a plaid one, and the beanie for Hush Puppy shoes. (After Vatican II beanies were no longer necessary.) Our principal determined that Hush Puppies were insurance against black scuffmarks in halls and classrooms. They also helped keep things quiet.
When the late Sixties allowed for individuality in footwear, many a girl in funky, high-heeled shoes, broke the silence clunking through classrooms and down church aisles. Sometimes, I was that girl. If I had to walk down an aisle or through a classroom on my own, I tried to muffle the noise by slowing my step. Especially loud clunkers could turn heads and ignite giggles.
Another thing at every Catholic school in those days were collections to save pagan babies—unbaptized children not taught about God. Pictures of Cherub-faced Indian, African, and Asian babies graced small cardboard collection boxes given to each child. We gave our allowances to save those babies.
Pagan Babies Didn’t Go Away
Saving pagan babies occurred during a simpler time, before cynicism and political correctness found their stride.
Someone must have decided it was no longer a good way to raise money for Catholic missions.
Pagan babies may have disappeared from collection boxes but they started showing up in our families. A recent Pew Research Center study revealed that much of Christianity is significantly losing members. More than one-third of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith.
Why Baptism Matters
That means that many of our grandbabies are pagan babies! I know it’s not a politically correct term, but babies are not getting baptized or raised in the faith. This is a serious problem.
Christians have always believed that “baptism is the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission…” ( CCC 1213)
Scripture stresses the importance of this sacrament. "Baptism . . . now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 3:21; cf. Acts 2:38, 22:16, Rom. 6:3–4, Col. 2:11–12). In A.D. 381, the early Church Fathers wrote in the Nicene Creed, "We believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins."
Catholics practice infant baptism because we take care of our children’s basic needs and what is more important than filling them with the Holy Spirit? “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:27). Scripture references baptism of entire households, never saying “except the babies.” (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, 1 Cor. 1:16). St. Paul noted that baptism replaces circumcision and circumcision was for infants.
For those dying without baptism, however, the Catholic Church teaches us to hope in God. “With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God’s mercy and to pray for their salvation.” (CCC 1283)
An Easy Way to Support Missions
Regardless of whether pagan babies have become personal, we should still pray for and support the spread of the Catholic faith in foreign lands and in our own.
These days, instead of collection boxes we can use apps. I came across an amazing new app called Missio, created by the
Pontifical Mission Societies and launched by Pope Francis.
It is Catholic mission crowd-funding, making it easy to support those giving spiritual and material comfort to the suffering and marginalized . It’s a great way to perform works of mercy or give alms during Lent or find a family charity.
Let’s never forget that one day we will account for how we helped others. “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?” (Matthew 25: 37-38).
To learn more, Father Andrew Small, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies talks about Missio on the Catholic Connection (right after the news).
As a promotion, MISSIO is offering a chance to win a trip to Rome. If you register with MISSIO by noon February 2, 2017, you’ll be entered for a chance to join the Pontifical Mission Societies on their pilgrimage to Rome in May 2017, and an audience with Pope Francis.
Take a look and see why I’m so excited about this app and will be promoting it every chance I get. And one final thought: we can’t always get our loved ones to practice the faith, but we can offer our alms up for their conversions while benefiting others.