At Mass in the Sistine Chapel Sunday, Pope Francis baptized 27 babies, reminding their parents that the first space in which children learn and witness the faith is at home.
“Yes, when they go to catechism class, they will study the faith well, they will learn catechesis,” he said Jan. 13. “But before being studied, faith must be transmitted, and this is a job that is up to you.”
Preparing to baptize the 27 babies – 15 girls and 12 boys – Francis urged their parents “to transmit the faith by example, by words, by teaching [them] to make the sign of the Cross. This is important.”
“The important thing is to transmit the faith with your life of faith: that they see the love of the spouses, that they see the peace of the house, that they see that Jesus is there,” he said.
Francis gave the brief, impromptu homily during Mass for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, when there is a tradition of baptizing a group of babies in the Sistine Chapel, a custom started by Pope St. John Paul II.
In his homily, he said that it is the parents’ task to pass the faith along to their children, beginning at home, “because faith must always be transmitted ‘in dialect:’ the dialect of the family, the dialect of the house, in the atmosphere of the home.”
Asking if he could give a little advice, he went on to urge the couples not to fight in front of their children. He noted that it is perfectly normal for a husband and wife to quarrel but recommended trying to keep arguments out of the view and hearing of their kids.
“This, I dare, is a piece of advice that will help you pass on the faith,” he said.
The pope also commented on the “chorus of tears,” that could be heard coming from the over two dozen babies in the chapel and said mothers should not be ashamed to breastfeed if their child is hungry.
“And so, we go forward in this ceremony, in peace, with the awareness that the transmission of the faith is your responsibility,” he said.
Following Mass, the pope reflected on the Baptism of Christ before leading the Angelus, noting that before Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river took place, he was “in the midst of the people.”
This element of the story “is not only a background of the scene, but is an essential component of the event,” he said. “Before plunging into the water, Jesus ‘plunges’ into the crowd, joins it and fully assumes the human condition, sharing everything except sin.”
“In his divine holiness, full of grace and mercy, the Son of God became flesh to take upon himself and take away the sin of the world,” he continued.
Explaining that Jesus’ baptism marks the start of his public life and mission, Francis noted that the mission of the Church and each person to be “faithful and fruitful,” calls for a “grafting” onto the mission of Jesus.
“It is a matter of continuously regenerating evangelization and apostolate in prayer, to make a clear Christian witness. Not according to human projects, but according to God’s plan and style,” he said.
“The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a favorable opportunity to renew with gratitude and conviction the promises of our Baptism, committing ourselves to live daily in harmony with it.”