May 20, 2011

Presentation of Mary

Back to Our Lady in art and again I find myself with Giotto, this time for the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple.  Like the birth of Mary, this account is not found in the Gospels but comes from apocryphal writings and is celebrated by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  The story tells that Mary's parents were childless and when they conceived Mary they promised to dedicate her to God.  They brought her to the temple where, the story goes, she remained there until betrothed to Joseph.  Nice story, but in all likelihood there was no such thing as Jewish temple virgins.  First of all, women were not allowed in the temple but had to stay in a courtyard for women. Also I don't believe the temple had living quarters. And, who would take care of dedicated children...temple nannies?  Ok, that was a joke. This story, however, shows us that Mary was set apart to be the Theotokos and Giotto is one of the few artists that portrayed this story in art.

This story also brings up something I have been thinking about for awhile. How many people these days actually consecrate their children to God? Yes, we as Christians baptize our children, which means they are reborn in Christ and anointed to share in His mission. We as Catholic parents, promise to take on the responsibility of bringing up our children in the faith as first teachers of the faith.  How many really take this seriously?  I coordinate the baptism ministry in our parish and in the past 5 years the numbers of baptisms have declined significantly.  No, the number of children being born has not, but parents are not that quick to have their children baptized or they see no problem with baptizing them in another faith.  A growing number of these parents were not married in the Church and when I ask them to come to Mass they give all kinds of excuses as to why that is not really possible.  Most likely the next time we will see some of these children in church is when they begin their preparation for First Holy Communion.

Last week I sent away for my baptismal certificate.  We were discussing our own baptisms at work and I didn't know the date of mine.  When I received my certificate the other day I discovered I was baptized at 3 weeks old on May 16. Three weeks!! My own children's baptisms were about a month to six weeks after birth. Most of our baptisms today are celebrated when the children are over 4 months old with over 6 months being the average. We also see a good number past their toddler years. Now there may be good excuses for delaying baptism, but what does that say about the desire to dedicate children to God, to have them as part of God's family. 

Maybe we need to dedicate our children to God each and every day, no matter how old they may be,. I think I am going to start doing that. Maybe some miracles will happen. Hear that kids?

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