Wednesday, December 10
So They Would Not Forget Who They Now Were
"Fray Juan Focher indicates that other problems soon developed, and the friars were forced to revert to several baptismal sponsors. It seems some native parents were acting as godparents to their own children. Since being co-godparents was a canonical impediment to the marriage of the parents--it created a 'spiritual relationship' or kinship--some were using this as an excuse to divorce [sic] their wives and remarry. (The neophytes soon found the loopholes of Canon Law.) [...]
"An amusing note in all this has to do with the giving of baptismal names to the neophytes. In the early days of the evangelization, with huge numbers receiving the sacrament, the friars would choose one name, such as "Juan" for all the men baptized on one day, and one name, such as "Maria," for all the women. [...] After the ceremony, an assistant would hand each of the Indians a small card (cedulilla) with his or her name written thereon so they would not forget who they now were."
--Jaime Lara, Christian Texts for Aztecs: Art and Liturgy in Colonial Mexico, p. 90
In some way, that small task of reminding the forgetful, muddled newly-baptized who they are sums up the whole mission of the Church here on earth.