Last week I began some reflections on the sacrament of Baptism, and today I would like to continue with that. Like every sacrament, Baptism is a sacred ritual celebrated with certain material elements, actions, and words. I mentioned last week that water is used because of its natural symbolism: it is used to cleanse us and is necessary for life. It is fitting that the Lord should direct His Church to use water in this sacrament to cleanse one from sin and bring about a “new life” in Christ. In the first centuries of Christianity it was the usual custom to immerse one in water, but other forms (sprinkling or pouring water) were occasionally used. It is understandable that immersion fell out of favor in the colder climates, especially in regard to children. Heated churches now allow for immersion to be used in some Catholic churches, though other practical considerations still make pouring the preferred form in most places. In all cases, the ritual is always accompanied by the words, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This is mandated by the Lord Himself before He ascended to His Father in heaven (Matthew 28:19). Although the ordinary minister of the sacrament is the priest or deacon, in an emergency any person may baptize, as long as they intend to do what the Church believes. They need simply to pour water over the person while saying the words the Lord gave us in Matthew. Of course, like all the sacraments, the norm is always that this sacred ritual be celebrated in the church by the Church’s minister (priest or deacon). Because the Lord teaches the necessity of Baptism (John 3:5), it is important that parents arrange (preferably before his birth) for the Baptism of their child soon after his birth. Next week I will talk about the role of Godparents and the naming of the child.
Today (Sunday), and each of the Sundays of Lent, we have a Holy Hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 3-4pm, during which we also pray Solemn Vespers (evening prayer) beginning about 3:30pm. Religious brothers and sisters, priests and deacons, are obliged to pray the “Liturgy of the Hours” daily, though all the faithful are invited to do so. All are invited to join Deacon Ruesch and me in this beautiful and ancient prayer of the Church.
May God bless you!