Sunday, September 21, 2014

THE REFORM OF INFANT BAPTISM--WHAT IS GOOD AND WHAT ISN'T?



Yesterday I celebrated the Extraordinary Form of infant baptism for a family that requested it.

I've done this now about five times since it was allowed in 2007.

Let me give a brief overview of the Baptismal Rite in the Extraordinary Form:

The priest wears a violet stole over his cassock to begin the celebration (he may also optionally wear a cope that is violet). Thus the first part of Holy Baptism is penitential. This is lost in the revised Ordinary Form.

The sponsors (godparents) role is elevated and the parental role is neglected. There is not problem in the godparents have an exalted role but I do think the neglect of the parental role needed to be revised. Therefore only the godparents respond to the ritual questions and the godmother holds the child. However, the questions are directed to the infant using his/her name but the godparents answer. In the Ordinary Form the questions are not directed (even symbolically an in the EF) toward the infant.

There is not a clear beginning (although it is at the entrance of the church) with the "Sign of the Cross" and greeting. I found this awkward and prefer a more formal greeting. Rather, the priest questions the child with the godparents answering "What do you ask of God's Church?" and "What does Faith offer you? Then the priest gives a brief exhortation about love of God and neighbor to the infant.

Then the priest breathes three times on the infant in the form of a cross and offers the first exorcism expelling the unclean spirit to give place to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.

Next the priest makes the Sign of the Cross on the infants forehead and heart with his thumb. The one over the heart is omitted in the revised form, the breath of the priest is eliminated as is the first exorcism. Not sure why! I think it is a mistake to have done so.

Then with hands on child and then raised above a powerful "collect" is prayed acknowledging the power of good over Satan and the foulness of wickedness.

Then blessed salt is placed in the child's mouth (not a lot of course) and this is the prayer: "N., Receive the salt of wisdom let it be to thee a token of mercy unto everlasting life. May it make your easy to eternal life. Only then is there the first liturgical greeting by the priest and it is the pontifical greeting not allowed priests in the OF, "Peace be with you." And another collect.

Then the child is admitted into the church building proper with another exorcism: "I exorcise thee, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father...(three signs of the cross), that thou goest out and depart from this servant of God For He command Thee, accursed one, who walked upon the sea and stretched out His right hand to Peter about to sink. Therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge thy sentence and give honor to the living and true God.Give honor to Jesus Christ His Son, and to the Holy Spirit and depart from this servant of God because God and our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Powerful stuff here folks, completed omitted in the revised rite and sadly so!)

Another Sign of the Cross is made on the infants forehead: "And this sign of the Holy Cross, which we make upon the forehead, do thou, accursed devil, never dare to violate...

Then there is the imposition of the priest's hand over the child and another powerful "Collect" is prayed.

Then the priest lays the end of his stole on the candidate as a symbol of his priestly authority and admits the child into the building the symbol of the Church of Christ with an accompanying prayer.

At the entrance to the baptistry, the godparents say the Credo and Pater Noster (in English if desired).

Then there is the Solemn Exorcism (not a minor one).

Then taking some of his spittle (this can be symbolic or omitted) the Ephpheta is prayed with spittle touching the ears and nostrils of the candidate. The Ephpeta if maintained without spittle in the revised rite but the nostrils are not blessed the ears and mouth are which is a good revision.

Then the Godparents still at the entrance to the baptistry are questioned about renouncing Satan.

Then the child is anointed on the heart with the oil of catechumens. Then the priest changes from violet stole to white (cope changed too if used). All enter the baptistry for the the rest of the question form of the Creed concerning faith.

Then immediately the child is baptized with the godmother holding the child. The water in the font is already blessed prior to the baptism. The revised rite has the blessing of water during the liturgy with a prayer that I think is too long. Blessing the water (using a shorter formula) during the liturgy is a good revision though.

Then the liturgy continues with the Anointing with Chrism, the giving of the white garment and lighted candle. And then there is a dismissal but no formal blessing.

I think a formal blessing at the end was a good revision. Things end rather abruptly.

I prefer the EF order of Baptism. I think though there should be a Liturgy of the Word or a Scripture reading and this is certainly a good revision in the OF.

The older ritual touches the participants in a dramatic way especially with the movement from the world of Satan (falleness) to the Church, the penitential aspect emphasized and redemption achieve in the Church!

19 comments:

Pater Ignotus said...

You BREATHE on the infant THREE times??? How can a germophobe like you do such a diseases-spreading, plagued-extending thing???

You might as well lick the doorknobs and then give the godmother a healthy kiss on the lips!

Father Kevin Estabrook said...

Thanks for the run down of the EF baptismal rite. We never examined it in seminary.

While celebrating the OF i often think to myself, "i bet there was something more elaborate here".

I was listening to some lectures from the Healing and Deliverance Ministry summer workshops at Mundelein. There was an outbreak of possessions in a small town in Italy. Come to find out the parish priest had been omitting the exorcism prayers from baptism rite.

Not that the revised rite is ineffective, especially concerning the validity of the sacrament, but is there some spiritual good from the tradition of the Church of which the new rite deprives us?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

No PI, the breath in the sign of a cross is not off putting, the spittle, well...

What I appreciate too is that the EF Rite of Baptism does allow for a goodly amount of vernacular. The exorcisms and collects are in Latin as are the words of baptism, but the people's parts, the renunciation and profession of faith are in the vernacular as it the Apostles Creed and Pater Noster.

Anonymous said...

WOW, the EF form is very very compelling and powerful!! It states to Satan he is not to touch this child of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the OF form just does not have the same punch, words mean alot.

George said...

Father Kevin Estabrook:

This EF baptismal ritual has a similarity to the ritual used by Father Gabriel Amorth to rid persons of demonic oppression. At one time any priest could perform the Rite of Minor Exorcism, not just at a baptism but on an adult if need be. Beginning In 1972, men preparing to be ordained as Catholic priests or deacons would no longer receive the minor order of exorcist. So any priest ordained prior to 1972 can perform this ritual. According to father Amorth it is sorely needed today.

Gene said...

Typical Ignotus contempt for, and ridicule of both the TLM and Fr. MacDonald. I have a dog with more class...

Anonymous said...

Come on, Pastor Newgene...PI is making a joke. Lighten up....get a life.

George said...


I did not meant to convey or imply with my comment that a priest cannot perform a minor exorcism. Of course they do so at baptisms and with RCIA catechumens. Father Amorth does lament the changes to the exorcism prayers from what they were previously and also (I believe if I'm not mistaken) that priests or deacons no longer receive the minor order of exorcism. A priest can perform a major exorcism only with the permission and approval of the bishop.


Also from Fr. Amorth's book:

Laypeople (that is people who are not ordained clergy) can perform minor exorcisms, that is private prayer, which is called collectively "deliverance prayers"

Cameron said...

Gentle breathing does not spread as much germs as licking doorknobs.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - I think you meant TLB, no?

Gene said...

Doesn't matter, Ignotus…your contempt for all things traditional is obvious.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - Yeah, it does matter. It was a "B"baptism, not a "M"ass, so it's TLB, not TLM.

And no, I am not contemptuous of all things Traditional. I'm a Catholic, so Tradition is essential.

Anonymous said...

People seem to forget that, back in the day, *mothers* often did not attend the baptisms of their children. They waited to be churched before entering church again, usually several weeks, some time after the 1-3 week period in which baptism occurred after childbirth.

JusadBellum said...

Question for the Paters present (ordained and natural): have you seen an uptick in demonic activity (obsession, oppression, harassment....possession)?

I ask because so much depravity and irrational wrath/violence in the news seems to point to something happening.

The New Age craze came and went but untold millions dabbled into witchcraft and wicca/new paganism is growing. Drug use is up, and other nihilistic/fantasies that all open 'doors' to evil spirits or at least not dispose people to resist temptations better!

Over 350 Public school teachers (mostly women) have been caught with students (mostly boys) in the past year nation-wide. If they're men the common hue and cry is for the men to be hung at dawn. But as they're women...the usual reaction is snickers. But that's still adults in authority abusing their position to seduce minors and it can't be prompted by the angels of God.

So while sure we can't presume the devil is behind everything (the world and flesh have their own powers and place in Catholic theology) have you seen any sign of an uptick?

St. Paul warns us that our enemies are principalities and powers (and not primarily other people with whom we hold grudges or disagree with ideologically). It would follow that whatever we do sacramentally or using sacramentals, exorcism or holy things to create more and more 'occasions of grace' and expand the dominion of God...the more we'll crowd out occasions of sin and reduce the dominion of the Prince of this world.

Gene said...

Bellum, Well, I use a lot of garlic in my cooking and I haven't seen any vampires around my house in quite a while. Does the stuff work against werewolves, as well?

Pater Ignotus said...

Jus - I have not seen any uptick.

I don't think there is more "depravity and irrational wrath/violence" at present. I think, tough, that with the advances in communications over the last 150 years or so, we hear of them more frequently.

I would compare this to the thought that many have that we are experiencing "more" earthquakes, hurricanes, avalanches, volcanic eruptions than in the past. Again, I think we are simply more aware of their occurrences.

"Scientists analyzed the historical record of earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude and concluded that the global frequency of large quakes is no higher today than it has been in the past. Results of the study were published on January 17, 2012 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

I have been called maybe a dozen times by people who have experienced "strange" things in their homes and/or businesses. In none of the cases did I conclude that 1) anything unexplainable by natural causes was happening or 2) that there was some "demonic" power behind the event.

Anonymous said...

Father one always hears that Satan hates the Latin language, can you add anything to that?

Anonymous said...

Well, considering the Latin language was used for all sorts of evil over the centuries, including the death sentence of our Lord, an unqualified statement of that kind is superstitious. Latin is not magical.

Gene said...

There may or may not be more depravity and irrational violence than in the past. I believe there is, but no matter…what is frightening is how inured to it we have become and how our society has become so co-opted by it. That is the lens through which the current depravity and irrational violence is magnified and which makes the evil in our culture and modern world so much greater than in the past. Relativistic philosophy, morally neutral technology, and an all pervasive pragmatic ethic have expanded our capacity for evil exponentially. No society in history has had so many options available to it for morally outrageous acts, human degradation, and the destruction of self and others nor has it had the large scale, global acquiescence to it that allows it to expand. Any corrective to this would have to be so drastic, so violent, and on such a large scale as to make one fear the remedy to be an evil of its own. God help us!