A fortnight ago, when writing about supporting the sacramental initiation processes for adults and children, I made the point “that supporting and participating in the sacramental initiation processes for adults and children is every parishioner’s responsibility.”
This is not something I simply made up. The Church’s General Introduction on Christian Initiation lists the people of God as the first ministers in Christian initiation:
The preparation for baptism and Christian instruction are both of vital importance to God’s people, the Church, which hands on and nourishes the faith received from the apostles…Therefore it is most important that catechists and other laypersons should work with priests and deacons in the preparation for baptism. In the actual celebration, the people of God (represented not only by the parents, godparents, and relatives, but also, as far as possible, by friends, neighbours, and some members of the local Church) should take an active part. (article 7)
There is a very simple way that we can “take an active part” and assume our responsibility as God’s people for the initiation of all. This opportunity presents itself when children are named and anointed with the oil of catechumens at Mass prior to the celebration of their baptism. The priest claims the child for Christ by the sign of the cross, and invites parents and godparents to do the same.
You may notice that sometimes the priest (particularly Fr. Denis), will suggest that members of the assembly may come forward and also mark the child with the sign of the cross. This very simple action makes it even clearer to everyone present that this child is becoming part of a parish community, and that the community supports the child, their parents and godparents in this faith journey.
So next time this part of the Rite of Baptism is celebrated at your Mass, consider coming forward at that point and join the priest, parents and godparents in making the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead. Anybody who is baptised can do it. There is no rule on how many people can or can’t do it. It is a simple way of the community showing its love and concern for a child and a family starting out on a journey we still travel today by virtue of God’s love and the support of each other.