On this day, which in the year of my birth was the fifth Sunday in Lent- or, as it was known then, Passion Sunday, I was baptised. I was exactly three weeks old. I gather, since I have no personal recollection, that it was all pretty straightforward. And so it was for my own children- since when, it appears, things have changed and parents wishing to have their children baptised are required to undergo some course of instruction. As I remarked to my good lady today- if we were, by some miracle, to have another child then I am quite sure I could not be bothered with all that nonsense but would do the job myself. Called to account I should say: "Danger of death"- my own- given the way these courses appear to be drawn out.
I did experience some of the parish courses when the children were being prepared for First Holy Communion and for Confirmation. It was tedious beyond words. In one a good and holy nun spent a long time asking rhetorically and to little purpose that I can remember what we had felt when our child was born. In another a well-intentioned layman got rather mixed up on the subject of which of the sacraments conferred a character upon the soul and told us that on that account one could only receive one's First Communion once. My American cousin, who had seven children, agreed with me on the pointlessness of these courses. She had managed to get herself excused after her fourth had been confirmed.
It is difficult to account for this enthusiasm for giving courses. Even people getting married are required to attend preparation courses. I wonder if anyone attending such a course was helped to a mind-blowing insight. "Wow! So that's what marriage is! I don't think I want to go ahead with that!" Of course the advantage of teaching people things they already know is that one's success or otherwise as a teacher cannot be assessed. It is rather like painting a white wall ...white! Once the paint has dried it scarcely matters whether or not you have covered all of it. Or like washing. As we learn in the Gospel, the "one who has taken a bath has no need of washing. He is already clean all over."
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