Be the Change You Want to See – Or, Why Did I Get My Son Baptised?
One night last week my son recited a Hail Mary to me. He shyly mumbled it, crossing himself, at the end, looking a combination of proud and embarrassed.
This is how it goes, for those of you unfamiliar with it (I had to Google it myself).
Hail, Mary Full of Grace
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
I actually welled up, momentarily. Granted it had been a tough week, what with a racist misogynist being elected President of the United States, but hearing those words come from my 6 year old’s mouth really shocked me.
I don’t believe in God. I’m not a Catholic; my husband’s family are nominally Catholic, but not practicing. And yet I had my son baptised into this church.
We did it when he was around two, so had procrastinated to a degree. He was baptised by a member of my husband’s extended family (a Priest, not just a random uncle with a free afternoon). We had two Godfathers, again, neither of whom are practicing Catholics. The outrageous hypocrisy as we all stood at the font and recited our bit about believing in God, and Jesus and teaching these lessons to my son, as our families smiled on from the pews.
It was a nice day. Two families coming together to celebrate this lovely boy. But it could have been done without God getting a mention, so why did we do it ?
School. Such is the demand on primary school places in certain areas of Ireland, Dublin in particular, that getting your child a place is incredibly difficult, without a baptism certificate it can be nigh on impossible – depending on your location. There are a number of ‘Educate Together’ schools which are non-denominational, but they are few and demand is high. The majority of schools are still Catholic. So, we took the path of least resistance and got him baptised to ensure he could get a place in a school.
A place in a school where Nuns and Priests visit the classrooms, where children recite prayers about being ‘sinners’. I can’t imagine what my son makes of it all. God is never mentioned at home, unless as an expletive. I don’t think we’ve ever been inside a church together as a family, aside from the day of his baptism. My son is a remarkably uncurious child and has never asked any questions about God or death or Jesus, but hearing him say, ‘Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,’ was a blow to my conscience. I felt deeply uncomfortable.
I know they’re just words to him, a child. But they aren’t just words. They are symbols of a malign influence on Irish society and as long as Catholicism has a place in our schools that influence endures. By continuing to get our children baptised into a church we don’t believe in, we are helping to secure its position in society into the future. A place which, I believe, it should not hold. We should not have Nuns sitting on hospital boards.
This is not new information, we all know this is happening. It’s not something we are really confronting though, it is not often enough talked about in national newspapers, there is no real visible movement for change. We play the game to make life easy for ourselves, for our children. You can’t have them being left out on Communion day.
We took the easy way out in getting our son baptised. It’s a lazy, apathetic attitude and one of which I am now ashamed. Our daughter is three and we have not yet had her baptised. I would hope not to, though this will no doubt throw up its own problems.
Call me melodramatic if you will, but if the events of recent weeks have taught me anything, it’s that you shouldn’t just blindly accept what’s laid out in front of you. It’s up to you to make the change you want to see. Make people uncomfortable if you need to, stand up for what you believe in.