Death & Baptism

In The Genius of Christianity, or Beauties of the Christian Religion, Chateaubriand wrote an eloquent description of baptism. This “first act of the Christian life,” he exulted, is perhaps the most “divine mixture of theology and morality, of mysteries and simplicity” to be found in all religion.

It was with this sentiment in mind that I took my child to Mexico to be baptized over the summer. My wife is Mexican by birth, and she was baptized, along with all her siblings, in the Templo de la Merced, which is a splendid Baroque church in the center of the city of their birth, the construction of which began in the first decade of the seventeenth  century. In respect for this venerable family tradition, we had our first child baptized there a decade ago, and we had intended from the birth of her sister to do the same for our second child, but because of restrictions on travel during the Covid pandemic, we had to wait until last summer to make the trip .

As part of preparation for the class my wife and I attended in our parish church, we closely studied the sections of the catechism on baptism. We rediscovered the profound mythos that connects water with birth, life, fruitfulness, and the mystery of death and the cross. We meditated on the prefiguring of baptism in the crossing of the Jordan by the people of Israel, a passage through water that led them from a state of homelessness and wandering to a covenant and a homeland. The mystical beauty of these reflections brought me several times to tears as I pondered them.


Alexander Riley is a senior fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization.

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

more from the online archives

24.1—January/February 2011

Sanger's Victory

How Planned Parenthood's Founder Played the Christians, and Won by Allan C. Carlson

27.3—May/June 2014

Sex & the American Experience

Facts versus Stereotypes About Love & Marriage in the Land of the Free by Allan C. Carlson

32.1—January/February 2019

Is Patriarchy Inevitable?

Answers Secular & Religious by Allan C. Carlson

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone