As we approach the season of autumn, the first day being September 22nd, we’re going to begin to see many things change. The leaves will begin to change colors, the temperature will drop and the air become crisper, people will begin to layer up with sweaters and jackets, and baseball will be replaced by football. The beach will be replaced by pumpkin patches, and ice cream will be replaced by pumpkin pie.
On a recent segment of The Inner Life, Josh Raymond brought up his love for pie, especially pumpkin pie, the first pie that he ever made. He recalls reading the recipe right off of the can of pumpkin. And he also recalls serving pumpkin pie to his friend, who declined the opportunity for a dollop of whipped cream on his slice of pie. While his friend eventually came around to the idea, Josh thought about what it would be like to eat pumpkin pie without whipped cream and concluded that whipped cream is an integral part of the full enjoyment. Without it, pumpkin pie is still good, but it is undisputedly incomplete.
It stands on its own but combined with something else, it is so much more. We see this type of dynamic all the time in different aspects of our lives, even in our spiritual lives. Josh welcomed Father Joseph Illo onto the show to talk about baptism and confirmation and how baptism is an integral first step, but how it becomes so much more with confirmation.
Father Joseph began by explaining that a sacrament is a sign from God that uses material elements and words to communicate grace and signify what our soul is experiencing. For instance, in baptism, the material signs would be holy water and the words would be, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is a cleansing with water because our soul is being purged of original sin.
Some parents question the concept of baptizing their babies or children because they don’t want to impose a religion on them. They’d rather let their children choose for themselves. But that doesn’t square with how a parent should operate. Why would you teach your kids to walk? Why would you feed them or teach them to ride a bike? Let them grow up and figure it out for themselves. That’s the same reasoning for refusing to provide them with the truth of the Catholic faith from their earliest moments.
You teach them the basics because you want the best for them. You tell them what they’re eating for dinner and when to go to bed and how to dress because they don’t know any better. You teach them the right way to do things because you love them. Give them a religious basis so that they can grow up to be good, strong Catholics and make it to heaven. Baptism is the first step in providing that basis.
But if baptism is our official entrance into the Church, then why are both confirmation and the Eucharist also considered sacraments of initiation? Isn’t that redundant?
Confirmation is a fulfillment of your commitment to Christ that was begun at your baptism. It is a strengthening and a deepening of the blessing received from the Holy Spirit when you were baptized. While most Catholics are baptized as babies, most confirmations don’t happen until one is in their teens or young adulthood. This is that opportunity for them to fully realize their duty as baptized Catholics, and the anointing and laying on of hands is that reaffirmation.
Our duty as Catholics does not end when we are baptized and confirmed, and our responsibilities do not end with attending Mass on Sundays. We aren’t just called to “warm a pew” but to do good, avoid wrong, and form a vibrant and rich relationship with our Lord. When we conform to our baptism and confirmation by staying the Lord’s course, God gives us the grace to continue to live saintly lives and reject evil.
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