tl;dr By the skin of our teeth, my brother and SIL managed to get my nephew baptized yesterday. We were basically the baptism version of The
Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
The Whole Shebang:
As some of you may remember, I’m an atheist by way of a Catholic childhood (baptized and 1st Communion).
You should know, my Parrish when I was growing up wasn’t some “fire and brimstone, repent or be damned!” church — it was a pretty chill congregation. I have no hard feelings, just a fundamental disagreement on the existence of God. My practicing Catholic family doesn’t hold it against me, either, so it’s all good.
Nonetheless when my brother (Catholic in name only) and SIL (not Catholic) asked me to be Godmother to my nephew, I was flattered and a little concerned, but I accepted. From my perspective, faith is personal and everyone has the right to believe what they do. So even though it’s not *my* thing, I would happily advise and help guide someone asking questions or exploring their faith.
I told my Brother and SIL two things when I said “yes”: I have never been confirmed, are you sure I’m good to go?; and if I’m asked point blank, I won’t lie about my atheism (spoiler alert: I kind of lied). My SIL told me not to worry — my mom already provided them with a copy of my baptismal certificate and the church accepted so I was all set.
As Godfather, they chose my brother’s longtime best friend, who’s as Catholic as me and an even bigger smart-ass
So yesterday we all file into my hometown church, including Mr. and Toddler Nom. A few minutes before showtime, the Priest made his way over to our group and — holy shit! — he is old and Irish. Like, off the boat Irish. Like, he was alive during The Troubles (most polite conflict name ever, BTW).
He greets us and — first thing — he points out that my nephew is a bit “older” (he’ll be 2 next month) than most kids he baptizes. Umm, okay. He makes a big deal to say that if he fidgets too much, he has to assume the kid doesn’t “want” it and won’t go through with it. It’s been 30 seconds and we’re already getting a lecture.
Then he runs through our names to make sure he’s got them all correct and this happens: “And, Nom, you are a Catholic?” “Yes.” (technically true, technically — look, it’s not like you submit a resignation... I’m still on the Master List back at the Vatican... probably) “You were confirmed?” “Uh, no. I was baptized.” (furrows brow) “You were never confirmed?” [My brother chimes in] “You also had your first communion!” “Oh, yes, I also had my first communion!” (more brow furrowing) “But you were never confirmed into the the Catholic Church.” “No.”
“And you, Godfather, are you confirmed?” “I had my first communion.”
He turns to my brother and SIL and asks, looking right pissed, “What documentation did you submit for them?” My SIL scurries over to my mom and comes back, “We provided Nom’s baptismal certificate...” “And the office accepted that?” “Yes, they told us we were all set.” “Ah. I see. (smiles, snaps his binder shut) A memo will be written!” and walks away.
We all looked at each other like, “Fuck. We are in so much trouble right now!” Throwing us heathens out would have been more subtle.
SIL turns to my brother and says, “You told me Godfather was confirmed!”
My brother just shrugs and says, “Yeah... I confirmed he was Catholic.” Godfather backs him up on this with a, “It’s fiiiiine, just write ‘em a check.”
I asked my SIL if my cousin — my one truly, confirmed, Catholic cousin, who is already Godmother to their daughter — was coming b/c I was okay with her stepping up in my place, only to learn they were running late and would just see everyone back at the house for lunch afterwards.
So things get going and we all (all 4 families) march back to the baptismal font (first time) and the Priest asks each family in turn “Will you commit to raising your child in the Catholic faith — not just the theory, but the practices?!” He didn’t like that my brother answered “We do.” He made my brother and SIL (who was tending to my fidgety nephew) say “Yes!”
We march back up to our pews. He starts in on salvation and some story about the Pharisees and being reborn and goodness and you need God to overcome your innate badness and, let’s just say, IT GOT PRETTY FUCKING “FIRE AND BRIMSTONE-Y” PRETTY FUCKING FAST.
It was so bad, I whispered to Toddler Nom (who is 4 and not deaf) that there is nothing bad in him. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let someone put that idea into my kid’s head.
And then, seconds later, ToddlerNom asks the question I’ve been dreading since we got there — out loud and pointing, of course — “Who is that dead guy?!”
*sigh* Jesus Christ.
He is literally referring to the giant, hanging, crucified, Jesus Christ. I whisper that “I’ll explain it later.”
And the priest goes on. And on. And I’m actually starting to get pissed because now it’s just insulting. Which, I think, Toddler Nom picked up on, because then he whispered to me, “Don’t listen to him!” You got that right kid.
At some point we went back to the font again (actual baptizing time!) and of course we went to stand on the wrong side. It’s a circle! How can you even fuck that up?! Well, because Father Fire and Brimstone wanted us to his left, not his right. At some point, he unbuttoned Nephew’s shirt to make a cross with the oil over his heart.
Back up to the pews we went. And he talks some more. During this, my SIL starts buttoning up my Nephew’s shirt (Godfather was holding him) and I guess the priest didn’t appreciate that she had her back to him so he stopped talking and just stared at her, which she couldn’t see and I had to nudge her to turn around. She was mortified.
Then we all go up on the stage or whatever and candles are lit and the priest calls all the guests to come up, too, and everyone promises to help support the raising of the kids as Catholics and now let’s recite “Our Father”.
And wouldn’t you fucking know it that ToddlerNom, who is with my mom and is right up at the altar, responds to this with a big old, ptheeewwwww!
Godfather and I just put our heads down as we snicker but it is *not* lost on the Father.
Later, at my brother and SIL’s house, Godfather and I high-fived that — praise Jebus! — we actually pulled it off! Over empanadas and ceviche, we recounted all our gaffes to the extended family, from how we’re totally unqualified to all the figurative wrist slaps.
But the coup de grace has to be finding out that my father had answered Toddler Nom’s question about the “dead guy” — he told him it was just a Halloween decoration.
We are so going to hell.