To conclude our treatment of baptism, it is important to speak to some frequently asked questions regarding baptism. Noting that baptism is necessary for salvation (as there is no impurity in heaven, including no souls that remain stained with original sin) two frequent questions that come to mind are: what happens to babies who die without baptism, particularly those who are aborted and those who are miscarried?; and given that some parents delay (or give no thought to) baptizing their children, when is it acceptable for someone other than the parents to step in to see to these children receiving baptism?
When it comes to infant children who die without the benefit of baptism, it is of first importance to realize that these children have no fault of their own. Whether the end of such a life is accidental (by miscarriage or illness, etc.) or deliberate (as with abortion), these children had no reasonable way to receive baptism. Accordingly, we must remember the plain truth that God is Creator and the Father of mercies – and it is within His own power to forgive original sin as He wills (just as Jesus freely laid down His life in dying on the cross for our salvation). You and I who have been gifted to live lives in this world for the time that we do each have a reasonable opportunity to receive God’s graces in baptism – and are therefore individually held to account if we do not respond to His invitation. On the other hand, those who have no reasonable opportunity of their own to respond are understood to be in God’s merciful hands, so to speak. For as God is the giver of baptism, so too He has the capacity to grant His grace of forgiveness in any means He wills, even outside baptism – and thus we can have real hope that in His mercy He takes to Himself any and every human being who was deprived of baptism by no fault of their own – as once more, He has power to forgive in Himself and can do it without baptism being given.
As for children whose parents delay or flat out deny them the gift of baptism, sometimes other family members (especially grandparents of the children) will allow their worry over these children to take hold to such an extent that they want to take matters into their own hands. While concern over non-baptized children is well founded, the truth that the parents themselves have primary responsibility to raise their children in the faith (beginning with their seeing to the baptism of their children) cannot be ignored or set aside. Likewise, for a baptism to be lawfully offered (or for it to be “licit” as the Church refers to such), at least one parent must ask on behalf of their child for baptism and there must be a reasonable hope that the child will be raised accordingly.
These principles of the primacy of parents being what they are, what ought others to do who may be concerned that their infant family members/loved ones have not been baptized? Above all else: be good examples of faith. If grandparents are concerned over non-baptized grandchildren, their first recourse as in all things should be to give this concern to God in consistent prayer, asking His will to be done. Likewise, these same individuals ought to seek to be good examples of faith themselves by living the faith in a way of love, using encouragement and invitation in a gentle way in speaking to those in their family who are the parents of the non-baptized. What is not helpful (and is often hurtful) is to be nagging and even forcing of this question upon the parents – especially if the grandparents themselves are not seeking to be true disciples of Christ by their own way of life. In short, it is always best to surrender our worry to God – and to seek to be true to Him by our own lives, that He Himself may draw others to Him.
In the next installment, we will begin our look at the sacrament of confirmation.