Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

In Laws' Attempt at Baptism Has Woman Wholly Confused

DEAR ABBY: I am happily married to a man with a strong Catholic upbringing. I was raised without any religious ties, and therefore I was never baptized. This has never bothered me.

Since I do not believe in baptism, I made a conscious decision not to be baptized. This has caused considerable concern for my husband's parents, who are convinced I'll end up in hell.

A few weeks ago as I entered my in-laws' home, they surprised me by sprinkling holy water on me and mumbling a few words. When I described the incident to some friends, they informed me that I have now been baptized -- whether I like it or not. Abby, is this possible? -- WHAT'S GOING ON IN ST. PAUL

DEAR WHAT'S: No, it isn't. According to Father Greg Coiro, a Catholic priest, once a person is past the age of 7 -- he referred to it as "the age of reason" -- the decision to be baptized must be a conscious one. The only exception to that would be a "conditional baptism" for someone who is in a coma.

So, you weren't baptized. You were only moistened.

DEAR ABBY: A few years back, you published a poem that asked the question, "What do you want for Christmas?" The answer was, "Nothing!" I sent it to family members that year, but have since lost it. Please print it again. -- "OLD" FAN IN ILLINOIS

DEAR "OLD": I'm happy to. The verse was written by two "Longtime Readers in Missouri" to help senior citizens tell their families and friends what they want -- and what they don't want -- for Christmas. Read on:

So many of you asked us (since Yuletide's drawing near)

"What do you want for Christmas? What can we give this year?"

If we say, "We want nothing!" you buy something anyway,

So here's a list of what we'd like; believe now what we say:

Pajamas for a little child, food to feed the poor.

Blankets for a shelter, and we ask but little more --

Perform good deeds and let us know,

Or volunteer your time.

These last are worth a fortune,

And they needn't cost a dime.

We have too many things now, vases, candles, tapes and clocks.

We have our fill of garments, ties, underwear and socks.

Candy is too fattening, crossword books we've more than 20.

We don't need trays or plates or cups,

And knickknacks we have plenty.

We've no walls to hang more pictures;

We have books we've not yet read;

So please take what you'd spend on us

And help the poor instead!

Just send a Christmas card to us and tell us what you've done;

We'll open them on Christmas Eve and read them one by one.

It won't cost as much for postage as a package sent would do,

You'll need no wrapping paper, ribbons, ink or glue.

And we'll thank God you listened to what we had to say,

So we'll be the instruments to help someone this way.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600