Several times during the course of his pontificate, Pope Francis has asked the faithful if they know the date of their baptism.
“Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism, and that way you will keep in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism,” the pope said in an April 2017 general audience. “To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past — and not by our own will but by that of our parents — and that it has no impact on the present.”
He went on to say: “We must reawaken the memory of our Baptism. We are called to live out our Baptism every day as the present reality of our lives. If we manage to follow Jesus and to remain in the Church, despite our limitations and with our weaknesses and our sins, it is precisely in the Sacrament whereby we have become new creatures and have been clothed in Christ.”
I could not agree more. Keeping one’s baptism alive is a way of remembering the most important day of our lives: when we were welcomed into the Catholic faith, cleansed of original sin, and given new life as a beloved child of God.
I reflected on this recently during a personal pilgrimage to the site of my baptism — the first time I had visited there since I was an infant. My parents moved from Maryland to North Carolina when I was 3 months old, so I was not raised at the parish in which I was baptized.
It was a thrill, therefore, to finally make the journey last week with my family. We visited the Church for daily Mass, and we had the opportunity to worship the Lord together within the walls where I was first marked with the sign of faith.
There is something very meaningful about acknowledging and honoring the beginning of one’s faith journey. About seeing and touching the baptismal font. About being in the place where this most important of sacraments took place. About imagining the friends and family gathered in community to welcome a small child into the Body of Christ.
It was a great gift to share the experience with my husband and my son, who was baptized only a little more than a year ago. Being at the church of my baptism also helped me recall the beautiful day on which he was baptized, and served as a reminder of the responsibility that my husband and I continue to have to raise him and educate him in the Faith.
Visiting the location of my baptism was such a gift that if I had to add one piece of advice to that of Pope Francis, it would be to not only learn the date of your baptism, but the place. If you haven’t been in a while, I encourage you to make a little pilgrimage out of it. You won’t regret it.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.
This column originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor.