Be the Change You Want to See – Or, Why Did I Get My Son Baptised?

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.

24 thoughts on “Be the Change You Want to See – Or, Why Did I Get My Son Baptised?

  1. I actually had my daughter Christened purely for reasons of her going to a better school, and for the excuse of a big family get together! Neither me or the OH are overly religious. I went to a Church of England school, he went to a Catholic school but that is really where our dedication to any religion ends I suppose. We wanted to get our daughter Christened for the school situation but we didn’t know whether to go with Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church. In the end we went with Church of England (OH’s family wasn’t too happy) but we thought there were better schools locally. Turns out we haven’t got a chance of getting into them anyway due to catchment areas so the whole thing was a waste of time.. Like you I now wonder if I did the right thing and if we have any more children if I would even bother getting them Christened at all..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really interesting – I had no idea that you might need a baptism certificate to get your child into school in Ireland. It’s crazy the church still has that much power. I’d feel uncomfortable about it too – my husband was raised a kind of half-hearted Catholic, but neither of us are religious and we haven’t had our daughter baptized. It never even crossed our minds because it’s not such a big thing in Scotland. #fortheloveofBLOG


  3. Neither of my children are baptised, I wanted to give them a choice about religion when they are old enough to understand rather then “put them” into a religion they do not understand or have a choice about.


  4. I also had no idea that you had to have your child baptised in order to get into school in Ireland. It’s scary that the Church has that much power. I love your last paragraph on this post. All too often we just do things because it’s the way it’s always been done without actually considering whether it is the right thing to do for us/our children. #ForTheLoveOfBlog


  5. This system makes absolutely no sense to me. Religion, or lack thereof, should have no impact on the schooling you receive. I think I would have done the same as you in that situation, but it would make me feel uncomfortable too #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I would have had a dark night of the soul about this; it would have been something I would have really struggled with. I’d probably have ended up doing it, because of the vast reach of the Church in Ireland. What makes me angry is not that parents give in and do it, but that the Church is involved in education, medicine and politics to the rotten extent that it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t think about it enough at the time and now it makes me feel sick. Why does a long ago made up story have any impact on modern society’s education and medicine. So archaic it’s ridiculous . Thanks for reading !

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I was asked to be godmother to my friend’s child and I had to decline because I couldn’t say in chuch that I would step in in the child’s religious instruction like the priest asks. It was a very hard conversation to have with my friend, who isn’t religious, as she didn’t care about all that….#Stayclassymama

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  8. Totally brilliant! Too many people blindly follow and don’t actually stand up for what they truly believe because actually making a change is not easy. It takes balls and determination. Loved this post! I needed reminding of this because I think I’d lost myself for a while! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We recently faced this issue. We are applying for our son for school for next year. There is one school in our area which is ‘the best’ according to everyone. But they seem to know it. Even the 20% non-Christian they are required to allow in still have to get a letter from the priest saying they are good members of society and support the church! WHAAA? My (Catholic) step-mother pushed that it would be a good idea to christen our son to get him in, my husband (atheist/strongly anti-religion) and myself (atheist with personal spiritual beliefs) just politely declined and found another school we like better anyway. I personally think Church has no place in schools. Religious education is one thing, brain-washing and forced indoctrination is another. Great post xx #stayclassymama


  10. None of our children are baptised so I understand where you’re coming from with your daughter. However, being someone who works in a grammar school but doesn’t believe in the grammar school system I totally understand that sometimes we bend our principles for what we perceive to be for the good of our children at the time (I am a nicer person to live with teaching in an ‘easier’ school and there is a better chance of getting my children in too….). so we all do it. A really interesting post as ever. x #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is a very interesting perspective. I have to say I didn’t really know just how much a role Catholicism is playing in Irish society. As someone who grew up in the USA and now lives in the UK, I’ve always felt free to make my own choices about religion. I am a Christian, but I don’t agree with the way people in the USA make voting choices based on their religion in the expectation that everyone should share their beliefs. It’s a complicated topic and you’ve been brave to address it here. #kcacols


  12. Neither me or my sisters have gotten any of our kids christened. We are not religious, as yourself and saw no need for it. I can’t imagine what it must be like having religion take up such a prominent place in the education system. I hope not following the ‘norm’ with your daughter doesn’t have too much of an impact on her education. You are right though by accepting it nothing is going to change at all #kcacols


  13. That’s a really difficult decision, because on the one side you want to make sure your daughter goes to a good school but on the other side you want to stand up for what you believe in. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made in order to make a big change! To be honest (coming from the U.S.) I’m shocked that you have to be baptised to go to most schools in Ireland. That seems crazy! We do have catholic schools in America but you don’t have to go there, and they are not necessarily better. Anyway, while this post was mostly about religion in schools it actually has inspired me to stand up for myself (at work) : ). Thanks for sharing with #StayClassyMama!


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