This summer you were baptized at the St. Ann's Catholic Church in Spokane, where your grandparents live. You were one year old.
Your godparents are Melissa and Joe Matella, our very dear friends.
And everyone was so excited to see you and celebrate the sprinkling of water on your little head.
You, on the other hand, were having NONE of it.
But we laughed through it, and once we got to the cake, you were happy as a clam.
A day may come, Olivia, when you wonder why we had you baptized. You may ask why we don't go to church as often as some of your friends. Or you may have other questions about God, Jesus, religion, the Saints, and the whole issue of faith in general.
Let me tell you why I have chosen this baptism for you. At your baptism, we are welcoming you into a community of faith. It may not be the community that you remain in for the rest of your life, but it is a community that loves and accepts you, no matter what. The people of St. Ann's parish are not all related to you; they do not know you like we do, but they still welcome you in with open arms and hearts. This church reflects the values that your father and I believe in: the importance of social justice, charity, and a faith that keys in on the Bible's core values - loving your neighbor, living a life that is balanced, striving to be good, giving of yourself to those who are less fortunate.
There may come a time when you start to wonder why there is so much evil in the world. How could a loving God allow so much suffering here on Earth? I do not know the answers to these questions. But I have had times like this in my life as well. And often I turned to my faith. Sometimes that meant going to church, sometimes praying, and sometimes it just meant taking some quiet time to reflect and regroup and consider the meaning of life.
Religion has it's limitations. That is certain. By the time that you are old enough to read this post, you will know that you have been blessed with parents that encourage you to question authority and conformity. We want you to blaze your own path, Olivia. But I also want you know that you come from a place. A place that welcomes you and loves you. It is also a place of ritual and tradition. Ritual and tradition can be comforting when they are meant as expressions of love.
We have an expression in the Catholic religion, it goes "We Are the Church."
(At least, I grew up learning this expression. Does the church still believe this and preach it? I don't know. Right now the Catholic church is going in a direction that I don't understand and I can't follow. I have faith that it will find its way back though. I hope it will.)
"We are the church" means that the PEOPLE are the church. The very term "church" means "the people," or the children of God. And it follows from this core idea that God speaks through us. God is still speaking. Through us, to us, around us. You must be very careful to hear this voice. It is not necessarily the voice of a priest, or the church hierarchy, or the rigid interpretation of a book that was written hundreds of years ago. "A church" is a place we sometimes go to hear this voice. It is also a place we go because we are a part of a community that is bigger than ourselves. But you are the church, wherever you are. When you do something kind for someone else who needs a friend, or when you thank your parents and grandparents and hug your aunts and uncles and cousins, you are sending love out into the world. And I believe that is what God wants for us, from us? The words are little confusing, but I hope you get the point.
I can already see that spirit of love inside of you, sweet Olivia. Don't hesitate to share your light. We are so delighted to have you here.