In the summer of 2010, I had the privilege of meeting Jason Fletcher, who is the director of a Charlotte Mason school in Cambridge, England. Jason is personally connected to the Charlotte Mason story in that his wife Fiona is the daughter of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, author of For the Children’s Sake. I remember very clearly my conversation with him as we walked together through the Broad River Greenway.
Somehow our conversation turned to the question of infant baptism. I asked him how he thought about it. With characteristic clarity he said that he understands the practice in light of the idea that children are born persons. Given that children are “in all points like as we are, only much more so” (II:253), he saw no reason why they should be excluded from the sacramental waters.
This conversation came to my mind when Linda Fern and I recently discovered a handwritten, original poem by Charlotte Mason in the digital collection. As far as I can tell, this poem has never before been published, and it was not intended for inclusion in any of the volumes of The Saviour of the World. It is a touching picture of a family bringing their infant to church for the sacramental rite.
But of course the poem does not merely tell a story. As always, Mason ties everyday occurrences to the deep truths not only of theology but also of personhood. Anticipating Fletcher’s remarks a century later, Mason invites infants into the full life of the church. Whether your own tradition leans towards infant dedication or infant baptism, I hope you find in this poem an inspiration to draw you deeper in to the words of Christ, who said, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Special thanks to Linda Fern and Antonella Greco for their careful transcription.
And With His Lord Doth Dwell
by Charlotte Mason
Now what a stir is in the house
This Sunday morning fair
Clean frock, clean smock and sunny brow
The children wear; the mother, how
Fresh ribbon, brushed hair
Set off the dear and tender smile
Which the new-shaved father greet;
Gladness diffused to cottage frills;
With sweet and unaccustomed thrills,
Eyes in the cradle meet.
And neighbors come to walk to church,
Two maidens and one man:
The fête, the joy, are all for her,
The baby sweet as lavender
The infant of a span
They bear her to her father’s courts
Promoted by their charge;
And, does she smile, or does she weep
Fond memories will no record keep,
Or tell the tale at large,
When she in her turn brings the babe
for sign upon her brow
When water sprinkled, cross inscribed
Witness to heavenly peace imbibed
No man can tell us how.
“What stuff!” The ready scoffer cries
What may an infant know
Of mysteries of sin or grace
May glorify or else disgrace
The man in him shall grow.
That which is born of flesh is flesh,
And any good may see
The growth, development, the parts
The puny efforts, simple arts
By which he grows in Thee.
The way of the Spirit, none can tell,
Nor how He comes and goes;
In the babe’s secret heart and mind
A knowledge scarce of humankind
The little one may spell,
Not what we hear nor what we see,
Handle and know so well
Makes all the babe his Lord receives
The babe who loves and fears and grieves
And with his Lord doth dwell.