What’s in a name? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The first question asked at Baptism is, “What name do you give your child?” In the “old days” at least the first or second name had to be from the Cannon of Saints. The rules are more relaxed now.
Names within the family tree were repeated, which was a way to be in solidarity with our ancestors. Such customs are not as important to the present generation. Parents pride themselves on coming up with a unique name, when all along, God is the One who puts the name in the mind of the parents. “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you and I have called you by name.” Although we are assigned a number or a passport, God knows us by our name. However, once a child goes to school, names change. Andrew becomes Andy. Magdalene becomes Maggie. Or worse, children get called, “El chivo” “Tejon” “droopy daisy”. Our name identifies us, both first, middle and last name. Once a name is pronounced and put on the Baptismal register, the record is permanent, the original can never be changed. Therefore, careful thought, discernment, prayer should happen before parents decide what name to give their children. Clever to use soap opera personalities or Hollywood stars, or cartoon characters—but the children have to live with the name for all eternity. The parents express their desire for their child to be received into the Catholic Church through the Sacrament of Baptism. They are also acknowledging their responsibility to be the first teachers of the Faith for their child—to educate them in the Faith, to keep God’s commandments. And the godparents are also asked to recognize their role in the education of the child. The celebrant marks the child with Sign of the Cross on the forehead and invites the parents and godparents to do the same.
Sign of the Cross dates back to the beginning of the Church. The original cross freed us from sin and death. Originally a symbol of failure, representing capital punishment for criminals—became the sign of salvation. Imagine how many times we make the sign of the cross during our life. When we cross ourselves, especially with holy water, we remember our Baptism and the Mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Then the child is anointed on the breast with the oil of catechumens. Catechumens were the folks who were preparing to enter the Church. They studied for a whole year and walked with a sponsor who instructed them. Parents and godparents of children are the ones who come to classes. Since children are baptized during the weekend Holy Masses, the anointing of the catechumens is done one week before. The parents and godparents join the congregation in the renunciation of sin and the Profession of Faith. Then each child is called by name and baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The ideal is to bring them naked so that they can be immersed into the font. But parents cover them with clothes because they are afraid that they’ll catch a cold. “Don’t put on a head covering because that’s where the water is poured.” But hats are still put on and have to be taken off at the last minute. The oil of chrism is placed upon the head of the child. The same oil that is used for priestly and episcopal ordination—the same oil that was used for kings and queens. “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as members of His body, sharing everlasting life.” Then come the clothes—the white garment—which is the connection with the pall placed on the coffin at a funeral. We are symbolically downed at Baptism and then wake up to eternal life when we take our last breath. Holy Water is placed on the coffin at a funeral, then the white garment to remind us of the connection with Baptism. Receive the Light of Christ. The Paschal Candle is blessed on Holy Saturday—the symbol of Christ presence. The Candle burns during the Easter Season and at Baptisms and Funerals.
Our life is given to prepare for the Banquet. One day no Sacraments will be necessary because we will see Christ face to face.