Celebrating New Life in Christ — Every Year
SACRAMENTAL LIVING: BAPTISM
Birthday celebrations are a cultural standard in our part of the world, happy occasions for all. Each year on a child’s birthday, we remember with great joy in our hearts that this child was given to us — a blessing from God — and I’m happy I get to show my children that each year when the day comes around again.
But as Catholics, we know that the anniversary of our birth is not nearly as important — eternally speaking — as another anniversary, that of our baptism. In my home, with my 10 children, we make a point of celebrating that for kids, as well.
Children appreciate being singled out and celebrated; and, especially in a big family, it’s nice to have days set apart to make sure we do so. Baptism anniversaries are a good opportunity to do that. But, more importantly, celebrating children’s baptismal anniversaries is a way to show them by our actions that we believe what we say we believe about the importance and efficacy of the sacrament of baptism.
Add all the dates to your family calendar (with a reminder ahead of time) so you can remember to commemorate them each year.
In our home, on each person’s baptismal anniversary, he gets to choose a special meal and a dessert and hold a candle while the whole family renews their baptismal promises and gets sprinkled with holy water. Ideally, the child holds his own personal baptismal candle because I wrote his name on the box and put it somewhere I could find it again. But if that didn’t happen, any candle will do (perhaps from the Candlemas blessing).
We use the celebration as an opportunity to remember funny stories about what happened during their baptisms and who was there, and, of course, we look at photos. We also talk about what baptism means, why it’s important, and what it demands of us. Since we get to do it again each year, kids get the opportunity to hear those truths over and over — and come to a deeper understanding of them as they grow. “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit ... and the door which gives access to the other sacraments” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213). It’s a big deal! The word “baptism” itself comes from the Greek baptizein, meaning to “plunge” or “immerse.” This immersion into water symbolizes a death, from which we rise up in Christ, born again as “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
St. Paul reminds us, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).
So not only is baptism a new birth, it’s a more important birth than our first, since it’s the one that frees us from sin and makes us part of the community of the Catholic Church and “sharers in her mission” (Catechism, 1213). The Catechism not so gently reminds parents: “Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the ‘first heralds’ for their children” (2225).
Identifying and celebrating baptismal anniversaries for everyone in the family is a beautiful first step to build up a strong domestic church.
Kendra Tierney is a widowed mother of 10 living in the Los Angeles area and the author of The Catholic All Year Compendium and The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion. Watch Catholic All Year at Home on Formed.org and visit CatholicAllYear.com.
- sacramental living
- kendra tierney