Monday, June 17, 2013

From Baptism to Exorcism...Just Add Holy Water

One week from today, I'll be boarding a plane and heading back home to Indiana for my niece's baptism. Against her better judgment, my sister has asked me to be the baby's godmother. And, I am honored beyond words. 

I've watched the requisite baptism video online. I also watched The Lion King and Cinderella to take notes from Rafiki and Fairy Godmother should things head in that direction. I like to be prepared for every possible scenario. 

However, all this baptism planning has forced me to relive one of the most traumatic days of my parenting life: The baptism of my darling son. Or, the day my sweet angel turned into Rosemary's Baby. 

I know some of you reading this remember it just as clearly as I do. The story has become quite a legend in our family. I wish I could say it gets worse with every retelling, but it doesn't. It was really that bad. It's a very valid reason for parents to have their children christened before they can speak. It is certainly the reason I did with my second child. 

I'd like to preface this story by explaining that my son was always the quiet one. He was very timid, and extremely well behaved (not because I was awesome at parenting. He just came out that way. It was dumb luck). In play group he would stick right by my side. I would have to force him to speak out to people. This is why what follows came as such a shock to my husband and me. 

Sunday, December 28, 2003, a date which will live in infamy. It was our wedding anniversary, and the day we chose for the baptism of our 22 month old, precious baby boy. Words cannot begin to describe how adorable he was dressed all in white with those chubby cheeks and strawberry blond curls. He was a cherub. He was innocence and perfection personified...until the second we walked into the church. 

We chose my husband's brother, John and my sister, Julie to fill the godparent positions. My son absolutely adored them (still does) and was very comfortable with them, so we thought they would be the perfect fit.  I'm sure they were excited. At least for a minute.

The second his godparents were asked to stand with us, little guy kicked off the sacred ritual by screaming "No John! No Julie!" repeatedly. Peppered with the sporadic "No no no no! Get away!!" This should have been an indication of how the rest of the ceremony would be. We should have thrown in the towel, but we were young and dumb. So, we soldiered on. 

The screaming only intensified when he was anointed with oil. "Ewww!! It's filthy, Mama! Stop! Stop! It's too yucky!  It's filthy!  It's too filthy!" (Only "filthy" was pronounced "thilthy", which, I will admit, added a bit of humor to an otherwise unfunny moment.) When the anointing business had concluded, I thought we were in the clear. 

But, no. No, we were not. 

The moments building up to the actual baptism presented me with an opportunity to witness a very, very dark side of my child. Writhing and flailing to escape our grasp as we approached the font. Speaking in some lost language as he rolled his head at unnatural angles to avoid Fr. John's touch. It was the most accurate Regan McNeil impression I've ever seen. The only thing missing was the pea soup vomit. Though, I'm sure if he would have known that reference, he would have tried that too. 

As the priest touched our son's forehead with holy water, He shouted, "It's burning me, Mama! Help!! The water is burning me! (More screaming in the horrifying lost language) It hurts!! Save me!" and so on...He flailed and yelled, and yelled some more. 

At this point, I was certain we were going to be asked if we would prefer to switch to an exorcism. But, Father John was unflinching. (Do priests get hazard pay in these situations?) He carried out the mission, baptized our son, and introduced this new member of the flock to the congregation.  

The sanctuary was filled with the stifled, and some not so stifled, laughs of our family members, friends and fellow parishoners as we paraded our little demon seed through the church. It seemed that nobody else was as terrified by what had transpired as I was. Then again, they didn't have to bring the devil baby home either. I decided I would sleep with one eye open. 

My son never really outgrew his aversion to church. Some of his greatest hits include turning off all the lights during Easter Vigil (at 2 years old), spitting on a pew at Christmas (at 3), and refusing to do a reading at a children's mass because "I hate words at church!" (Kindergarten). I am happy to report however, that other than in the house of The Lord, my son is a happy, well adjusted, well behaved gentleman. No other indication that he may actually be the devil incarnate. I'm thinking he just doesn't like waking up early on Sundays. And, that I can understand. 


  1. This was amazing!!!!! I love Ben even more!

  2. Although we were not there (our own sympathetic aversion to "church" like activities), I have heard this story from many who were in attendance. None of them told the story from the horrified viewpoint of the mother though. Great writing about a less than happy day for you! Ben's a good kid, in spite of this experience & since I'm only his aunt, I must admit this story cracks me up every time I hear it!