Part of my personal calendar for as long as I can remember…
When I was a child, I used to try and arrange special treats for all my assorted pets, and any other animals I could lay my hands on, in honour of their patron saint.I would also wait hopefully for a treat or two to be directed my way, for St Francis' day is also the anniversary of my Baptism.
A baby born long after my parents had abandoned hope,-one who would, like any child, turn their lives and their world upside down .
They brought me joyfully to the church where they had married, to the priest who had married them 11 years before…and so I was baptised.
Years pass, and now when I stand at the font preparing to welcome a little one into the Church, to affirm our common identity in Christ, I often ask those present whether their own Baptism made a difference, whether the promises that were made on their behalf have been lived out to transform their lives.
But I also tell them something that I know directly to be true…that Baptism IS a Sacrament, that it works despite us…
That though on the day when they bring their child to the church, full of hopes, they have every intention of making those promises live…sometimes, with the best will in the world, life will get in the way.
I tell them that, actually, this is not the end of the world, that God honours our intentions, however imperfect their outworking in our lives.
Our Baptism service has parents and godparents answer questions about their intention to nurture the child in the faith with the response
“With the help of God I will”
and that’s what I believe in.
I believe in it,because I know that is how it worked for me.
Though my parents had the best of intentions, to worship together as a family, week on week, the reality was that my mother was so ill, for so much of my childhood that I can barely remember any times when our whole family went to church together. Instead, my father went quietly to the 8.00 Communion and it wasn’t till my singing committed me to the musical life of a faith community that my baptism began to be real to me within the congregation of God's faithful people.
So now, so many many years later, I stand as Canon Poole once stood holding me. Now it I who receive those little ones, I who pour water over their heads and baptise them in the name of Father, Son and Spirit…and I know that what was begun for me that day has made all the difference to what has come after…so I am thankful.
When I saw the opening of the Common Worship Collect for today, I was sad for a moment that Ellen's service had happened already. Her life was most truly and beautifully modelled on the ideal it presents to us
O God, you ever delight to reveal yourself
to the child-like and lowly of heart.
Grant that, following the example of the blessed Francis
we may count the wisdom of this world as foolishness
and know only Jesus Christ, and him crucified,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.