It was the first time in years a baby would be blessed in this tiny Belgian branch. The missionaries had explained how it worked and the handbook provided some scanty instructions.
– Brother Vincent will now bless his granddaughter.
He was over eighty. His health was declining, his memory erratic. He belonged to that revered group of pioneers who had accepted the Gospel from the first missionaries to the city, almost forty years before. He had married a much younger wife, convert like him and as devoted to the Restoration. For decades the couple had patiently served in this remote part of the Kingdom. Theirs was a small Mormon branch in a grey city.
I had attended that unit during my college studies. Now, years later, I happened to be there, passing through on a Sunday. The branch had hardly grown. It exuded the authenticity of early days. A rented apartment. Chairs aligned in the living room. A makeshift pulpit covered with a green drape. The sacrament table with two trays, one for the bread, one for the water. It still sufficed.
– And of course we welcome Linda. Congratulations on your baby girl.
She was there. She had not attended church for years. In spite of their dedication, the Vincents had not been able to keep their children in the fold. I remembered Linda as a difficult teen, bored by talks and lessons, annoyed by her parents’ commitment to a movement she could not identify with. Once a young adult, she had left quietly, not in contention, but still to the chagrin of her mom and dad.
Now she was in her mid-thirties. The infant sleeping in her arms had brought her back today. From the depth of imperceptible ties, from a resonance of sacred emotions, she wanted her father to bless her child.
– Will you please come forward with the little Angelina?
She comes, carrying the white bundle. Unaccustomed to the procedure, thinking of a confirmation or a setting apart, someone pulls an empty chair from the first row and turns it to the audience. Linda sits down, the baby in her arms. Brother Vincent, overwhelmed, hesitant, places himself behind her, while the branch president and his first counselor join at his side, both lost in the turn of events, but trying to keep up the appearance of a liturgy under control.
Brother Vincent puts his hands on Linda’s head.
– Our Father in heaven…
The branch president interrupts him, whispering.
– Oh yes, he mumbles, embarrassed, taking off his hands.
He moves to the side of the chair, bends a little forward, reaches out his arms, his fingers touching the delicate down of baby’s head. The two other brethren reach out too, their hands enclosing the bundle.
– Linda, in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the holy priesthood, we are here to bless this little girl and give her the name of …
– Angelina Sophie Madeleine, Linda whispers.
– Angelina Sophie …
He pauses. A blank mind in search for the divine.
– Give her health, Linda whispers.
– Father in heaven, we bless this baby with …
His phrases flow.
– Give her a cheerful nature, Linda whispers.
– Give her love, Linda whispers.
– Give her faith, Linda whispers.
That Sunday, I left a little branch with the ineffaceable certainty that somewhere, somehow, everything will be in order in the holy order of things.