At his first General Audience of 2014, Pope Francis gave the faithful in attendance a homework assignment. “Who among you knows the date of your Baptism, raise your hands,” asked the Pontiff. Then came the project: “Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism and that way you will keep in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism,” said the Holy Father.
This First Week of Lent 2014 there was no General Audience with Pope Francis, because the Pope and the entire Roman Curia are outside of Rome, at their annual Lenten spiritual exercises. This break in the schedule allows “Front Row With Francis” to catch up on the earlier audiences—and to do our “homework.”
In asking us to research the dates of our Baptism, Francis noted that, “many of us have no memory of the celebration of this Sacrament, and it is obvious why”—since most of us were babies when we were baptized. But he worried that if we don’t know the date, we won’t commemorate it and will relegate it to the past. “The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received,” he said. “Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past—and not by our own will but by that of our parents—and that it has no impact on the present.”
The first step I took to heed the Pope was to ask my mother when and where I was baptized. She said that I was baptized at El Rosario Church in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Christmas Eve 1968. El Rosario is the oldest Church is San Salvador, dating back to 1545; it served as the first Cathedral; and my hero Oscar Romero  used it as his temporary cathedral on occasion. But I was skeptical, so I contacted the Dominican fathers who run the church to confirm the information. Now—thanks to Pope Francis—I can integrate the memory of my Baptism into my spiritual life!
After all, said Pope Francis, Baptism is not “merely a ritual, a formal act of the Church in order to give a name to the little boy or girl.” He quoted St. Paul who said that “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4).
Accordingly, “A baptized child and an unbaptized child are not the same,” said Francis. Those who are baptized “are immersed in that inexhaustible source of life which is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and of death, but in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.”
How about you: do you know the date of your Baptism?
Previously: Francis on the Meaning of Lent