November 9, 2009

Chino's Baptism

Yesterday we attended the baptism of our little neighbor, Chino (CHEE noe). His real name is Arnaldo, but nicknames are more common than given ones here, and the shape of his eyes earned him the nickname early on (it means "Chinese person"). His baptism took place in the large Catholic church in the city square. It was our first Catholic service, and I have to tell you that the cathedral was just beautiful. The decor and architecture distracted me from paying close attention to the sermonette.

I'd done a little homework about baby baptisms before we went, to be sure I understood what was happening. Catholics believe that this initial baptism is "into the faith" and imparts the saving grace necessary to go to heaven. Throughout the lifetime, more is required to get grace for daily living. For example, I can make a pilgrimage to a holy place and that gets me a certain amount of grace to cover a certain amount of past sins. There are various acts I can perform to "earn" this grace (seems like grace means UNMERITED favor, right?), and each gets me a certain amount of points, so to speak. When I die, this gets tallied up, in addition to extra points if my family is performing the necessary rituals following my death, and hopefully I've earned my way into heaven.

So yesterday. The service was beautiful in a formal way, like a wedding. It didn't feel like "church" as I'm used to, of course, but each member of the congregation (our family excluded) seemed to have the proper prayers and recitations memorized and said them as a whole when prompted. There were a few hymns and a sermonette. When the service finished, the baptisms started. There were probably about 50 babies and small children in line for their turn, each dressed in the finest white dress or suit that the family could afford. About half had come in for the service from the outlying areas, and it was easy to tell who lived out in the country and who lived in town.

Chino, in particular, is from the country and, I suspect, had never been in a group of people so large. He'd also probably never had to keep a pair of shoes on that long, nor wear long pants and a vest. Needless to say, he was not happy about any of it. When the priest walked through the crowd to touch each child and speak his blessing, Chino began to kick and shove the poor robed stranger. I'm sure you can imagine how he reacted when his mother leaned him back over the tub for the priest to pour water over his hair. It was quite a scene! Then the priest walked through the crowd and touched each child again. All the while, professional photographers were weaving their way in and out like the Pope was visiting orphans or something. I tried to get at least one picture of the families I recognized from Arazaty, knowing they'd probably not be able to afford the professional ones they'd be offered later.

After the second walk-through, the priest called the godmothers up to light candles, and each took hers back to present to the mother. Chino took a tiny break from his screaming when his mom took the candle, but it only lasted a second or two. The pictures I got of him are just priceless. Well, for his patient mom who had to try to calm him down for that hour, probably not so much, but for me as an onlooker, just too cute. Unfortunately, my camera hand wasn't operating quickly enough to get a shot of Ken, Camille, Caroline, or Amber, as EACH ONE of them tripped over the oddly built benches. They have a tall board you have to step over to get out into the aisle, as well as a "kneeling board" that your feet rest on in the sitting position. Awkward.

We were invited back to their house for a special lunch, complete with home-grown chicken and a yummy cake. Several family members had come in from out-of-town and Chino's mom, Mirtha, had been preparing the home and the food for days in anticipation of this lunch. We were terribly honored to have been included as part of the family. They say that we are all the time, but to pull us in on a special day like this was very humbling and meant a lot to us. Thankfully, Chino was much happier to be home with the folks he knows than to be in the baptism ceremony! That's him giving the thumbs up sign beside Caroline.

1 comment:

  1. You ought to be working on writing a book on each of your probably will have enough for several sequels too! I look forward to reading your letters.


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