First off, if you’ve come across this post online before the day of your confirmation, stop reading now. There’s a sealed envelope with the handwritten version of this I have tucked away that I’ll give you then.
As the sun sets on this Labor Day, your big baptismal weekend has come to a close. The fridge is stocked with leftovers from the cookout and the delegations of aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, and godparents have all headed back to their respective portions of the Carolinas (your real homeland) and you’re passed out next to me in the bassinet after all the nonstop activity.
Your baptism was beautiful, even if D.C. was hotter than all get-out that Sunday. Monsignor Charles Pope gave a wonderful homily and you looked adorable in your baptismal gown. It was the same one your Grandma Kerri was baptized in, by the way.
I had hoped you would make it through the entire baptism without crying, but your regularly-scheduled nursing time and a dirty diaper simultaneously conspired to shoot that dream down in flames. Even so, I was crying right along with you as soon the holy water touched your head. It was truly one of the happiest moments of my entire life.
Before he performed the baptism, Monsignor Pope asked the following of your mother, your godparents and me:
You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?
I clearly understood this, though I don’t think I prepared for it at all. But, I wasn’t truly ready to marry your mother. And I wasn’t really ready for my Hell Week at The Citadel when I got there. I’ve realized, however, that the point of all these things isn’t to be ready at the outset. The process is supposed to make you more than you are. By the end of this process, you’ll have done just as much to help me get to Heaven as I will to help you get there, whether you realize it or not.
You will learn throughout the course of your life that our faith is not an easy one — far from it. Doing it right is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. We live in a culture that despises a great deal of what we believe, and wants nothing more than for us to change it. Your mother and I will do the best we can to firmly instill in you the knowledge that it is better to stand up for an unpopular truth than to acquiesce to the convenient lie, even as it becomes harder and harder to do so.
And sometimes, like now, the things that can challenge our faith come from within. “It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it,” Flannery O’Connor once wrote. “[T]he only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed.” I’m sorry that you will have to experience this reality so early.
Just one week after you were born, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was released. You were baptized just two and a half weeks later. The Church will bear the scars of what has happened and what continues to happen for years, and you and I as its members will suffer right along with it as members.
But do not ever let human weakness and wickedness extinguish your hope. God’s truth isn’t undermined or changed at all by mankind’s betrayal of it, no matter how wicked that betrayal is. If that were the case, this whole thing would have failed before it even began.
Now, you may have too much of my nature in you, and you still may end up taking a journey like the prodigal son redux that I had to go on to convince yourself of the truth. I sincerely hope and pray that you choose the easy way; but if you don’t, I know that finding out the hard way will only strengthen your faith stronger like it did for me.
All that said, I’m going to do my best to be everything that you deserve. And I know I won’t do it perfectly, but I have complete faith that your mother and the Holy Spirit will be there to pick up my slack.
I love you more than I’ll ever be able to express or explain, sweetheart. But if God chooses to bless you in the way that He has me, you’ll understand one day.