After having valiantly tried, and failed once again to complete my post about Lord of the World, I will now tell you about how Helen was baptized today for something like the 25th time, and then the 26th, 27th, and 28th. I know Catholics only baptize once, but in her case, I've had to make an exception. She isn't obdurate or anything like that, but her dollish plasticity, and lack of a soul have rendered repeated rituals ineffectual.
This is Helen. That's not the name that was given to her by my daughter, but it's the name that was chosen by the PRE class who originally christened her several years ago. Every year, or almost every year, when it's time for my class to learn about Baptism, I disinter Helen from her home in the pile of dolls in what I affectionately (heh) refer to as "the cat's bedroom," brush her off a bit, and tote her to church in the punch bowl cum baptismal font, along with other appropriate Baptismal paraphernalia that I have accumulated over the years.
Today, there were six students present, one of them a visitor. I have mixed feelings about visitors. They are a bit lost, not having been there for previous lessons, and they sometimes take the discussion into areas where I don't particularly want to go, but the Holy Spirit blows where He wills and we just trim our sails and go along. Problem is that I don't know much about sailing.
So, I tell the children that we are going to learn about Baptism today, and the visitor chimes in, "I been baptized three times."
"Where were you baptized?"
"In the Catholic Church and in the Baptist Church and (someplace I don't remember)."
"Well, different churches believe different things about Baptism and we believe that you only need to be Baptized once."
I know this isn't a great response, okay, but I'm just trying to figure out how to teach what I need to teach without making the poor kid feel bad.
So, I talk to them about how anyone can baptize someone in an emergency and I tell them how to do it. "I thought," says my guest, "that the preacher says 'Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?' and you said, "Yes," and then he says, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost." "Well,' says I, "that last part is the important part, and we do it the same way. That's why we believe Baptists don't have to be baptized again when they become Catholic." And then those who wished baptized Helen.
After that we had our big, formal Baptismal ceremony. "Who wants to be priest?:" Guest wants to be priest. I picture guest going home and telling his mother that at the Catholic Church today they taught him how to be a priest. Why don't we let R. (best reader) be priest? You can be the father. Then I assign the other parts and we start the ceremony. The father won't come to the font. He starts doing things to call attention to himself. He really wants to be the priest. He crawls under the table, you know, the table that has a punch bowl full of water sitting on top of it. When asked to move, he does, thank goodness. He reads the priest's part under his breath to show that he can do it better than R. Somehow or other, it manages to be quite nice anyway, and Helen gets her white garment and her candle and we wrap things up. The kids really liked the class, so I guess everything was okay.
I asked R. (who brought the guest) and the guest to stay after class for a minute and I explained that if I had let my child go to church with someone who wasn't Catholic, I would be uncomfortable with the idea of them choosing him (or her) as the pastor for something like that, and that that was the reason I hadn't let him do it. I didn't want his mother to be unhappy about anything he did in class. He said that was okay, sometimes his mother didn't care if he did bad things.