Friday, February 2, 2018

The Trouble with Baptism Classes

I attended baptism classes when I was expecting but I went to a parish where they did not place insurmountable difficulties. From Catholic Working Mother:
Some of the obstacles to baptism I’ve heard about from other Catholic mom friends are patently ridiculous. Some parishes require a class (or two, three, or even more!) that can only be taken after the child has been born, and only after he or she has received his or her birth certificate (which can take several weeks or sometimes several months after birth), and require both parents to attend, and don’t offer childcare for older siblings. Some even stipulate that you can’t bring your newborn child!
Tell me, how can the Church claim to support large families if they require large families to shell out money just to attend a parish baptism class? Do you think it’s easy for a Catholic family with six kids to (a) find a babysitter in the first place and/or (b) afford a babysitter? Most large Catholic families, including my own, can’t afford a babysitter for the desperately-needed occasional date night, let alone a required baptism class at a parish!

And speaking of that, why do parishes require a new baptism class for each child or make it so the classes “expire” after a set amount of time (usually three years)? Do you really think that a Catholic family who has already baptized 4-5 kids has suddenly forgotten what baptism is and why it’s important? If we’re having 4-5 kids in today’s day and age, chances are we are intimately familiar with Church teaching and doctrine. Heck, by kid #5 I think I could have TAUGHT the baptism class.

And it’s not even large families. Do you really expect a brand-new mother who is exclusively breastfeeding to leave her tiny child alone for several hours, likely for the first time? You have new parents who are constantly exhausted, stressed out, anxious about a million different things, and you tell them: “Oh, by the way, you have to attend this class at your parish [or sometimes multiple classes] before we can even set a date for the baptism. We’re going to make it at the most inconvenient time possible for the parent who is working, and you’ll need to find a babysitter to care for your tiny, vulnerable newborn. Oh, you breastfeed exclusively? Well, you’ll have to figure that out, because we can’t possibly have an infant at a class where we’re discussing infant baptism.”
No. You don’t do that to families. You don’t target them when they’re already in one of the most chaotic, tiring, stressful periods of their lives and do what you can to make it even WORSE. That isn’t going to bring people into the Church, or evangelize them in any way. That is only going to push already lukewarm Catholics out of the door and send them down the street to the local happy-clappy Protestant church where all they need to do is sign up to get their kid baptized.

We as Catholics need to meet people and parents where they are. It’s 2018 and we can do better. Online classes (with a short quiz afterwards to ensure information was received and retained). Skype classes. Sending a deacon or a catechist or even the priest to the parishioners’ home to do the class. If a class at the parish is needed, allow siblings — including the new baby! — to attend along with their parents, and don’t have the class in late evening when toddlers will be tired and cranky. Feed them so they don’t have to cook that night, or organize a potluck. And allow parents to attend this class BEFORE the baby’s birth, especially if they are first-time parents! (Read more.)

No comments: