We had Isaac baptised last week, and at the end of the day when our relatives and the godparents had gone home and the children were tucked into bed we looked at our little guy sleeping on my lap and agreed that it was all worth it.
Everything we’d found difficult over the past 10 months has been totally worth it to have the privilege of claiming another soul for God.
We’ve been blessed with healthy children, and this little boy has been such a sweetie from day one, but adjusting to having five under nine, now five under 10, hasn’t been easy, especially when we added a house and school move at the same time.
We’ve had very happy times, but we’ve also had easily in equal measure stress, fatigue, arguments, discouragement, worry – what St Ignatius would probably term ‘desolation’.
Last week the baptising priest was a friend of ours, and something he said about the anointing with the oil of Chrism on the baby’s chest stood out for me. It is to strengthen him for the Christian life, for battle.
I think we all tend to underestimate how dispiriting everyday life can be if we let it, even when things are going relatively well. The treadmill of work and school and shopping and running around has a way of wearing one down and can certainly choke the meaning out of a life. We can lose sight of what we’re actually doing and what we’re here for.
Because we’re so used to this we can just let it run us over in a kind of resignation or tolerance instead of recognising it for what it is, part of the fight we are up against as Christians.
Jesus was so clear on this, for example in the parable of the sower when he spoke of the anxieties of life and attachment to wealth weakening and eventually choking the life out of plants which had been growing well.
As a Christian, there is no such thing as an ‘ordinary’ life – we’ve been anointed for battle and are meant to take up our place in the real-life fight between good and evil.
We are not participants in a rat race; we are the presence of God in the world by virtue of our baptism.
As St Teresa of Avila wrote:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours.
Part of the battle for me is just recalling this fact each morning and girding up and going out of my bedroom door with a smile on my face and keeping it there for the whole day – not just on special occasion days when it’s easy to do.
It’s a battle I haven’t got a hope of winning without the sacraments. How vital they are, in every sense of the word. They bring such clarity, of course, because Jesus is there, and he is truth.
The peace and joy we felt on Isaac’s baptism day was very clear, a sign that with God’s grace we might have lost some skirmishes over the past few months but we had achieved a tremendous victory in battle – a fifth soul for God!