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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Questions & Answers About Baptism (in General)

What is the importance of the baptismal ritual?

The various rituals that surround and precede the baptism amplify and signify the whole meaning of the sacrament. The candidate is given a saint’s name so that he will have a special patron before God and a particular model of holiness. He is asked if he desires baptism to insure that such is his own choice and that the conversion is not coerced. There is a brief exorcism rite, especially if the person has been involved in New Age cults or various Eastern religions. Of course, given the perplexing times, it is also possible that a person has actively engaged in witchcraft and Satanic practices. The words of the priest and his very breath in saying them signify the protecting presence of the Holy Spirit against evil and anything diabolic. Any enslavement to Satan is broken. The sign of the cross, made many times in the ritual, and upon the head of the candidate, marks the person as the property of God and as a disciple of the crucified Christ. He is to nurture in his heart and practice in his life the dictates of the Christian calling.

The imposition of hands is a further symbol of divine protection. Retained, at least as an option for children, the priest touches the ears and mouth of the candidate with the words, “Be opened” or Ephpheta! After the example of Jesus with spittle in Mark 7:33, his eyes are given spiritual sight and his mouth and actions are opened to the truth of the Word of God.

The person being baptized proclaims the faith and renounces Satan and all his works. Unless accomplished earlier, as with the exorcism rites, the candidate is anointed with the oil of baptism, also called the oil of catechumens. A child is anointed upon the breast. An adult is anointed upon the palms of the hands. It is still another sign of protection. Just as one might use lotion to protect from the damaging rays of the sun, here the oil is to act like armor against the assault of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

How is baptism performed?

There are several ways that water might be used:  immersion, sprinkling, and pouring. Pouring is still the most common. The priest or deacon pours water over the head of the catechumen while saying: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

What are some of the ceremonies that follow the act of baptism?

There is a second anointing, upon the forehead (upon the crown of the head for children). The oil used is a sacred chrism (slightly perfumed). The initiate is confirmed with this anointing, or if it is delayed, he is anointed priest, prophet, and king. He is the anointed of God, specially chosen to be among his elect. Such is our hope and the reasoning behind the white garment that might be used at this point. The book of Revelation asserts that the elect will be attired in gowns of white. It is a special sign of purity. We pray that they might bring it (figuratively) unstained before the judgment-seat of Christ. A lighted candle is presented to the person, or to a godparent in the case of children, lit from the Paschal or Easter Candle. Christ is the Light of the world and his is the fire that brings warmth to a world ever so cold. We pray that the one baptized into Christ will witness to this light and warmth. This is only made possible if one avoids sin, keeps the commandments, and loves both God and neighbor. If such is accomplished, then he can be confident in coming to the marriage banquet of heaven with all the saints. While the candle represents the newly baptized as a new Christ, the fire is the flame of everlasting life.

Why do we have sponsors or godparents?

They stand by the adult as supports and friends in the journey of faith. They stand by the child as one who professes faith and makes a solemn vow on the child’s behalf. They will support parents in raising the child in the Catholic faith. They will remain a model of Christian discipleship to the adult. We are a family. We do not come to God alone. A spiritual relationship is forged.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.