Oh dear, you had planned to ask your favorite uncle, the one who ditched Catholicism for another church, to be your child's godparent. Well, according to Canon Law, he can't be the godfather, but may act as a Christian witness if you find a practicing Catholic to act as godmother. And it doesn't matter how much you love her, forget about asking the cousin who became a Theravadan Buddhist. She doesn't believe in Baptism. How's she going to wholeheartedly transmit Catholic faith and its practices? Picking a Name
Here's something to figure out in the privacy of your own home: your child's name. Ever wonder how the Catholic kids always ended up with names like Theresa or John? Well, it's because there has yet to be a St. Lindsay or St. Brad. While the Church no longer requires you to name your baby after a canonized saint, you might want to do so anyway. For one thing, having endured over time, saints names will remain tolerable. (Honestly, can you picture a Tiffany with liver spots? I didn't think so.) More important, naming your child after a saint automatically provides a patron, an exemplar, and yet another special day to celebrate God's goodness and grace. However, the Church does insist that you avoid any name that's clearly anti-Christian-on the extremely remote possibility that you were going to name your child Sapphira. Note: You may use the same name at Confirmation. In fact, doing so reinforces the link between these sacraments. What Baby Should Wear
Traditional Baptism garb is white-for your child, that is. This represents "putting on Christ." Sometimes the church provides a white robe or stole to be used during the ceremony and kept afterward to commemorate the occasion. If your family doesn't already have an heirloom christening gown, here are two other traditions to consider:
Note: You'll be dressing your baby at home and will not have to undress the tyke for the rite, but do bring a towel and a change of clothes if you're opting for full immersion.
What You'll Take Home
You'll be leaving this ceremony with a candle, in addition to a baptized and, if you're lucky, a quiet baby. During the ceremony this taper is lit from the large Easter candle to symbolize your child's freedom from darkness by the Light of Christ. Hang on to this candle! It'll play a feature role in home-based celebrations for many years, if you're careful not to burn it too long at any one celebration and store it in your freezer. As she or he gets older, you can use this candle as a foundation for teaching what it means to share the Light of Christ.
Don't lose the paperwork! You'll need that Baptismal Certificate for just about everything in the life to come-CCD registration, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, and heaven forefend, Annulment. Add it to the pile of other important documents you have stashed in the family safe. No family safe? Uh-oh. You'd better go get one or sign up for a safe-deposit box at your local bank.
Haul out the family Bible-if it's not displayed on or near the family altar as suggested in Chapter 6-and record the baptismal date. If you don't already have this information recorded, you may as well note sacramental anniversary dates for everyone else in your family.
What to Serve at a Christening Party
By custom, your christening party menu should be dominated by white, light, and sweet foods. Decorate with white flowers, balloons, and more candles. Scallop shells are also used to symbolize Baptism, even though they were originally pagan fertility symbols. Did you string little white lights during Christmas? Well, you can use them again for this party. Bring out the dove collection you displayed for Easter and Pentecost! Put out a baby book and ask guests to write a little something about your child's Baptism or perhaps their own. Siblings involved? Maybe they could be persuaded to compose a special poem, craft a banner, or have pictures of their own Baptisms displayed.
For Guests: What Gift Should I Bring?
You didn't have the baby. No one asked you to be an official witness. You're an honored guest! You're wondering, What am I supposed to be doing? Well, at the church, you're not supposed to be jumping up on the pews or scrambling around the baptismal font with a video camera. Save that for the house party.
Your next big question is undoubtedly, Should I bring a gift? Here's the scoop on gifts for the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, First Eucharist). If you're invited, but don't attend, you're not expected to send something. May the Holy Spirit guide you to a greeting card that doesn't make you gag.
If you're invited and attend, depending on your closeness to the family, your gift may range from a bouquet of flowers to a monetary gift in the child's name (e.g., savings bond, stock, charitable contribution). If you're Catholic, it's appropriate to give sacramentals and items like religious jewelry, saint statues, saint medals, guardian angel figurines, children's books, or icons. If you're Christian, but not Catholic, don't give stuff you'd never use in your own faith practice (e.g., a rosary). If you're neither Catholic nor Christian, then you really are quite the honored guest! How about giving the parents a gift certificate to a restaurant or the movies? At some point, they'll need a break from parenting fun.