“Who among you remembers the date of your Baptism?”
This was the question that Pope Francis repeated during one of his weekly general audiences. He was addressing the thousands of pilgrims who gathered in St. Peter’s Square and asked for a show of hands of those who knew the date. As he clearly suspected, few were raised. He jokingly commented that he would refrain from asking any of the bishops present, in order to spare them embarrassment.
“All of you know the day on which you were born and you celebrate it as your birthday, don’t you? We all celebrate our birthday. I ask you a question, that I have already asked several times, but I’ll ask it again: who among you remembers the date of your Baptism?”
The Pope then assigned the faithful some homework - to research the day they were baptized and celebrate it. He remarked that baptism is “a second birthday”.
“The first birthday is the day you came into life and the second birthday is the one on which you came into the Church. It’s a bit of homework. To look for the day you were born, and thank the Lord for opening the door for us to his church, the day that you received baptism.”
It was fascinating to learn that as a result of the Holy Father’s challenge, parishes from throughout the world were reporting a spike in phone calls and inquiries from Catholics who were researching the date of their baptism.
I chose to write about this particular topic today because it happens to be the anniversary of my own baptism – my “Re-Birthday”. On this day, I was born anew of water and the Spirit and became an adoptive son of the Father. On this day, my sins were washed away and forgiven. On this day, I became a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. On this day, I was incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ (see CCC 1279). The day of my baptism was the most important day of my life, and as such, is worthy of being commemorated.
In response to the Holy Father's exhortation, my wife and I have begun a new family tradition. We now celebrate our baptismal anniversaries. It goes without saying that our six children (ages 1 through 12) were thrilled at the prospect of celebrating a second birthday, complete with cake and ice cream!
Celebrating our "Re-Birthdays" has afforded my wife and I the opportunity to cultivate in our children a deeper appreciation for the beauty, power, and meaning of baptism. We have marveled at how this has become a "teachable moment", a ripe opportunity to catechize and evangelize our children, who in turn have evangelized others. Not long after we began this tradition, our children began sharing their excitement over celebrating their "Re-Birthday" with their classmates at their parochial school. As a result, I have heard from several parents who recognize the evangelistic potential of this little tradition and were interested in starting it in their own families. How cool is that!
What about you? Do you know the date of your baptism? If so, how do you commemorate it?
Note: This article first appeared on the Catholic Answers Blog on February 7, 2014.