“You’re all dressed up,” Father Morelli said to Genet when he walked over to the pew where she was sitting.
“Yes. This morning, my cousin’s son was dedicated.”
“So, the child wasn’t baptized?”
“No. My church doesn’t believe in infant baptism. We dedicate children just as Joseph and Mary dedicated Jesus when he was a Baby. We believe that a person has to be of a certain age to make the decision to be baptized after they have accepted Jesus as their Savior just as the Bible teaches.”
He sat down beside her. “The Catholic Church believes that since babies are born with original sin, they need baptism to cleanse them, so that they may become adopted sons and daughters of God and receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the kingdom of God also belongs to children.”
“When Jesus talked about the kingdom of God and children, it wasn’t to do with baptism. Parents were taking their children to Jesus for Him to bless them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw that, He was displeased and He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ Then, He took them in his arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them.”
“There was Infant Baptism in the Early Church. For example, in Acts 2:38 and 39, when St. Peter preached to the crowd, saying, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, whomever the Lord our God will call. When St. Peter said the promise of baptism is for children, the Greek word for “children” was teknon which also includes infants.”
“Yes, but, the promise wasn’t of baptism, but the receiving of God’s Gift who was the Holy Spirit. Those who were baptized couldn’t have been infants because they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. And how could infants repent? How could they pray and fellowship or continue in the doctrine? Baptism was were the children when they were old enough to decide for themselves if they wanted to be added to the church and it was for those who were far off like the Gentiles and other people who would accept the Gospel. Teknon also means descendent and anyone living in full dependence on the heavenly Father, that is, fully or willingly relying upon the Lord in glad submission. As I recall, Acts 2:41 said that those who gladly received Peter’s word were baptized. How could infants receive what they don’t understand?”
“What about when St. Paul baptized Lydia with her household or the baptism of the entire household of Cornelius or the Philippian jailer and his family or the household of Stephanus? There’s no indication in any of these accounts that infants and children were excluded from baptism.”
“And there’s no indication that they were included. Lydia was baptized after she heard the words of Paul. Lydia was from the city Thyatira but she was living in Philippi. Maybe she had moved there for personal business reasons. I don’t know and I don’t want to speculate. The important thing is that she was in the right place at the right time. When she and her household were baptized, she begged Paul and Silas to go and stay at her house. Cornelius and his household were baptized after Peter preached the Gospel to them. The Holy Spirit was poured out on them and they began to speak in tongues. Would infants do that? And the Greek word used for baptism means to immerse, to submerge. I doubt that if there were any infants present that they would have been submerged in the water. And the Bible teaches us that there is one baptism. Our baptism is to be like that of Jesus’. He was submerged in the Jordan river. The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he should do to be saved and they told him to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and he and all his household will be saved. Then, they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. After that, he and all his family were baptized. All his family doesn’t mean that infants were also baptized. Cornelius and his household were baptized because they believed in God. Before a person can be baptized, they must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. How can infants believe in Him when they have no understanding? Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, whom Paul baptized, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. They believed and then, were baptized. When Philip preached about the kingdom of God and Jesus, men and women who believed were baptized. Simon, the sorcerer was also baptized because he believed. When the Ethiopian eunuch asked what prevents him from being baptized, Philip said to him, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ The eunuch said that he believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Then, Philip and he went down to the river where he was baptized. Before anyone can be baptized, they have to believe. How can infants believe?”
“Under the Old Covenant, babies were circumcised when they were 8 days old. Baptism is the new circumcision of the New Covenant which is why it’s is for babies as well as adults just as circumcision in the Old Covenant was for babies as well as adults.”
“How is baptism the new circumcision of the New Covenant?”
“It was St. Paul who called baptism the new circumcision when he wrote, ‘In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.’”
“Which one of the letters is that in?”
“It’s in Colossians 2:11-12.
Genet took out her pocket Bible and found the verses. She read them aloud. “‘In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead’. This is spiritual circumcision, not physical. And that circumcision happens when we are buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him through faith.”
Father Morelli didn’t answer but he was thinking about what she said.
“Would you be interested in going to hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Meets Bach’s Masterpieces at St. Paul Within the Walls Church?” Genet asked Father Morelli.
“Yes, I would.”
“It’s actually a dinner and a concert. Dinner is at Cotto Restaurant. Is that okay with you? You won’t get in trouble for having dinner with me, would you?”
“Good. I’m going to buy the tickets now before they’re sold out.” She took out her cell and found the website for the Italian Ticket Office. “It looks like the concert is only on Mondays. Will that be a problem for you?”
“No, it won’t.”
She ordered the tickets. “I got tickets for next week Monday. We are to go directly to the restaurant and show the confirmation from the ticket office and pick up our tickets just before the concert starts. The concert is at 8:30pm and dinner is at 6:30pm.”
“I’m a very big fan of both composers. Did you know that Vivaldi was ordained as a priest?”
“No, I didn’t know that.”
“He was given religious training as well as musical instruction. He was 15 when he began studying to become a priest and was ordained in 1703. He was known as “il Prete Rosso,” or “the Red Priest” because he had red, curly hair.”
“It couldn’t have been possible for him to be a priest and a composer at the same time, so what happened?”
“He didn’t last long in the clergy because of health problems which prevented him from delivering mass. As a result, he left the priesthood shortly after his ordination.”
“I’m happy he became a composer. His music is among the most beautiful and inspiring I’ve ever heard. I particularly love his four seasons.”
“You should hear his Sacred Vocal works. My favorite is Stabat Mater.”
“What is Stabat Mater?”
“It is a 13th-century Christian hymn to Mary, which portrays her suffering as Jesus Christ’s mother during his crucifixion. I’m not sure who composed it. It may have been Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi or Pope Innocent III. The title comes from its first line, Stabat Mater dolorosa, which means ‘the sorrowful mother was standing.’ It’s the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard.”
“I’d like to hear it.”
“May I borrow your cell?”
“I can see if Stabat Mater is on YouTube.”
“You know about YouTube?”
“Of course. I listen to sermons and Christian music on it sometimes.”
“Oh.” She found YouTube and then, handed him her cell phone.
He took it and searched for the hymn. When he found it, he played it. A man’s haunting voice filled the silence. They sat quietly and listened. When it was finished, he asked, “So, what did you think?”
Genet looked at him. “It’s beautiful and sad,” she said.
He noticed that her eyes were wet. “You’re crying,” he remarked softly. Impulsively, he reached out to wipe the tear from her right cheek. Their eyes met when his fingers moved to the left cheek.
Genet covered his hand with hers. “Roberto…”
The sound of footsteps reached them and he pulled his hand away. He rose to his feet just as Sister Caterina walked into the sanctuary. Genet quickly pulled her self together.
The nun looked at Father Morelli first and then, her. Her expression could only be described as one of disapproval. “Good afternoon,” she said to Genet in English.
“Good afternoon, Sister.”
Sister Caterina looked at Father Morelli and said to him in Italian, “Father, it’s Mr. Spinelli. His family is asking for you to go to the hospital and administer last rites.”
“Yes, Sister Caterina. I will leave right now.” He turned to Genet. “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” she said.
He excused himself and quickly walked away.
Sister Caterina turned to Genet. “Was Father Morelli helping you with something?” she inquired.
“Yes, he was explaining infant baptism to me.”
“I see. If you’re interested in learning more about infant baptism or more of the Church’s teachings, I suggest you visit the website Catholic Answers.”
Genet picked up her handbag and stepped out of the pew. “Buon pomeriggio, Sorella.”
The nun looked surprised. “Oh, tu parli italiano!”
“Si.” Genet smiled and walked away.
Sources: Biography; Wikipedia; Simply Catholic; NY Priest; Firsthand