Saint Augustine said, "He who created you without your consent will not save you without your cooperation."
As a mother, these words caused me concern. When my children were all young, and followed me like little ducklings, I didn't worry about Saint Augustine's words so much. However, as my children grew up and were no longer in a nice little line behind me, I began to wonder: what if they didn't cooperate with God? What if they strayed from their faith?
These worries can't be mine alone. I am certain that other mothers and fathers have the same concerns. We work hard to bring our children up in a good Christian home. We instill in them the Catholic faith.
But is it enough? Will they keep the Faith?
I have wrung my hands over this question, and in the process I have come to appreciate the sacraments more and more. Especially the sacrament of Baptism.
As a convert, I have always been intrigued by the tangible nature of Catholicism. I could see it, touch it, taste it even. I learned in RCIA that the sacraments are "efficacious," meaning they truly are what the Church teaches they are; and they actually do what the Church says they do. While I may be describing this in very simple terms, it is actually a profound reality.
When we receive the Eucharist, for instance, we are not just partaking in a symbolic event. We are receiving Jesus Himself, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. When we are baptized, the pouring of water is not merely exterior demonstration. It truly is a washing away of original sin from our soul.
And more: Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that, "...the Passion of Christ is communicated to every baptized person, so that he is healed just as if he himself had suffered and died."
Wow! And what does that mean? Well, Father Eugene Boylan says it means that Christ's merits are now our own: "The member of Christ, then, can call the merits of Christ his own, and offer them to God for all his needs; and that special title to them acquired in baptism endures as long as he is not in mortal sin. What limit then is there to his hope?"
I am sure I will always worry about my children. Yet, I know that, through Baptism, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, they have "become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission..." (CCC 1213)
The Catechism also says that Holy Baptism "is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments." (CCC 1236)
This is why, when I inevitably find myself doubting or fretting about my children's faith, I will continue to rest in the knowledge of the efficacious qualities of their baptisms. Baptism makes them adopted children of God, sharers in God's nature, co-heirs with Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit.
Saint Augustine was right—we need to cooperate with God. And God gives us holy assistance at Baptism by the gift of sanctifying grace. Although I will never completely stop worrying about my children, there are three reasons why I can rest in the hope of the seal of Baptism on their souls:
1. By sanctifying grace, Baptism enables my children to believe in God, to hope in Him, and to love Him.
Faith, Hope, and Love. These are the theological virtues. They are bestowed on us in Baptism, and we can draw from them throughout our lives. As parents, we can be assured that God loves our children even more than we do. He wants them close to Him forever. He gives the gift of Baptism as an ever-present help in this world, because each of us will continue to be challenged every day. "[God] saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) And, "Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation." (CCC 1272)
2. By sanctifying grace, my children can live according to the power of the Holy Spirit.
When anything tempts me to worry and wring my hands over my children's faith, I seek to remember that our faith in God is never as strong as God Himself. We must cooperate with the grace of God, yet also rely on the His power. "The individual's part, faith, does not have the same importance and independence as God's action because God plays a part even in someone's act of faith: Even faith works by the grace that stirred it up." (From an address by Father Cantalamessa, Preacher of the Pontifical Household, Zenit, May 9, 2014)
3. By sanctifying grace, my children can grow in goodness (the moral virtues).
This world is a scary place. As a parent, I worry as my children, especially the older ones, navigate the world and become who God wishes them to be. When we baptize our children, we place them in the hands of an all-loving God, who is also all-good and all-knowing. Yes, we are fallen creatures. So are our children. Yet I know that Christ uttered the words, "I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!" (John 16:33) At a baptismal Mass in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to parents and godparents. He said this about the Holy Spirit and Baptism: "...precisely as one progresses in the journey of faith, we grasp how Jesus exercises the liberating love of God upon us, which draws us out of our egoism, from our being closed in on ourselves, to lead us to a full life in communion with God and others. '"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him"' (1 John 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny.' (“Deus caritas est,” 1). The water with which these children will be signed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, will immerse them in that 'font' of life that is God himself and makes them his true children."
I asked my own mother recently when she stopped "worrying" about me and my sisters. She told me, "I haven't stopped yet." It is probably a reality of parenting. Yet when I think of the gift my children received at Baptism, I can rest in the assurance of the love that God has for them. At Baptism, they were given the gift of sanctifying grace, and the indelible mark of faith.
Baptism does not mean that we will not experience problems in this life. We all will face troubles, our children included. They may stray from the faith, even.
Yet these words of Pope Benedict XVI bring me comfort: "We entrust them to the protection of the Holy Virgin; may she guard them always with her maternal presence and accompany them in every moment of their life."
Here is a beautiful prayer from the Mother's Manual that reminds us to rely on the gift we all received at baptism:
Holy Mother Mary,
Who by virtue of your divine motherhood,
Hast become mother of us all
I place the charge which God has given me,
under your loving protection.
Be a Protecting Mother to my children.
Guard their bodies and keep them
in health and strength.
Guard their minds and keep their thoughts ever holy
in the sight of their Creator and God.
Guard their hearts and keep them pure and strong
and happy in the love of God.
Guard always their souls and ever preserve in them,
faithfully, the glorious image of God
whom they received in Holy Baptism.
Always Mother, protect them and keep them
under your Mothering care.
Supply in your all-wise motherhood,
for my poor human deficiencies
and protect them from all evil.
Queen of the Most Holy Family,
Pray for us.
All you mothers: take heart. Raise your children in the Faith, instruct them as well as you are able. Live the Faith as an example. Pray for them.
And let go, placing your trust in Christ and His merciful love.
Thank you, God, for the gift you have given us in the sacrament of Baptism!
Do you pray for your children?
Have you ever thought about how amazing the sacrament of Baptism is?
What gives you hope for your children and their future?
We would love it if you would share your thoughts with us in the comments below!