Our 4th child was recently baptized. It was a beautiful ceremony done during Mass, which was unique from our other 3 children, whose baptisms were done in a private ceremonies after Mass. Our new pastor made this an option (along with many other changes he’s making – for the better) within our parish just recently.
We were excited to have a large part of our parish community be part of this celebration. Our little baby girl looked beautiful, barely cried as she was cleansed from Original Sin, and put to shame the precious, squirming, screaming toddler boy who was baptized at the same time (he was a doll, though!). Her Godparents are shining examples of Catholics who live their faith beautifully. It was truly a day to treasure.
I was amazed at how many people commented during the following week about the baptism… “She was so good!”, “Your family is so beautiful!”, “My kids loved watching the baptism!”… and so on. All the kids at the parish school seemed to be chatting about it over the following days with our older boys. We were quite the parish celebrities for a week! Baptism is such a beautiful Sacrament that we all share as one united family! What’s even more beautiful is that this unity far exceeds those who happened to be present at that particular 10AM Mass – the entire Communion of Saints in heaven also celebrated along with us!
We also had a very tangible reminder of these traditions that have been carried and passed down through the generations of my family. Several weeks before the baptism my mom happened to find an old box that belonged to my grandmother tucked in the corner of a closet. In it was an old, white dress and a handwritten note from my grandmother saying, “This baptismal gown was last worn in 1888 by Aunt Rosie.” How incredibly special. My daughter got to wear this amazing dress, and I know Aunt Rosie must have been very proud to see her in it.
Similarly, my wedding ring is also an heirloom. It belonged to my husband’s great-grandmother. I still carry the little handwritten note in my wallet, “Wedding band belonging to Walter’s mother – Helena.” I love my wedding band – it’s a very simple, wide, gold band, but the fact that it was passed down to me, from my husband’s family, just makes me feel so included and united to him and his family’s ancestral line.
My mom has the old black and white photos on the wall in their family room. The ones of the pioneer families with staunch, stern faces, whose parents had traveled across the Oregon Trail, only to be met with futures of coal mining and harsh living conditions. Others show the brave ones who traveled across the ocean to escape a potato famine, only to fight wars in Texas and Mexico. In my husband’s family there are those who barely escaped the Nazis in Germany and made their way to New York – later to become converts to the faith. Even through this incredible trials and feats of the human spirit, faith endured, and Sacraments were celebrated, and traditions were passed from generation to generation.
We are so lucky and blessed to have ancestors and successors who have passed the traditions of our faith on to us. We can help our own children appreciate and respect traditions too! One idea Father mentioned at my daughter’s baptism was to pass on “white garment” we receive on our baptismal day (today it comes in many forms – my children’s vary from stoles, to bibs, to handkerchiefs – all embroidered with symbols and memories of their baptism). A man could give his to his future bride as “something new” for her wedding day. A woman can pass it on to her daughter as “something old”. I thought these were brilliantly beautiful ideas of new traditions and family heirlooms that not only celebrate family ancestry but also our faith! What other traditions can you share and pass on within your own family? Share yours!
Today, we’re here, reaping the benefits that these ancestors worked so hard to pass on. These ancestors are still with us, cheering us on, praying for us, watching over us, and celebrating with us. We have little reminders of their lives – heirloom baptismal gowns and wedding rings. The concept of respecting traditions and heirlooms is easy to understand and appreciate when it comes to our own personal stories. So, why is it such a struggle for so many to understand the Apostolic Traditions within the Catholic faith? Why would this be so impossible – especially when these traditions were instituted by Christ, Himself? The Sacramental traditions of our faith pale the almost-trite examples of material “things” that we hold dear. We aren’t just receiving the memory of our ancestors, we receive, in its full essence, the entirety of our Lord, God, and Creator in the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation.
The wedding band and baptismal gown are pretty darn cool, though… thanks, Aunt Rosie. Put in a good word for us up there.