A REFLECTION ON INFANT BAPTISM:
Jesus by his baptism consecrated the Waters of Baptism for all, and St Paul says when were baptised we entered into the tomb with Jesus and were raised to new life.
The Vatican “Instruction on Infant Baptism” offers clear directives:
1) Baptism, which is necessary for salvation, is the sign and the means of God’s prevenient love, which frees us from original sin and communicates to us a share in divine life. Considered in itself, the gift of these blessings to infants must not be delayed.
2) Assurances must be given that the gift thus granted can grow by an authentic education in the faith and Christian life, in order to fulfill the true meaning of the sacrament. As a rule, these assurances are to be given by the parents or close relatives, although various substitutions are possible within the Christian community. But if these assurances are not really serious there can be grounds for delaying the sacrament; and if they are certainly non-existent the sacrament should even be refused…………
As is clearly indicated in the Ritual, the parish community, especially the group of Christians that constitute the family’s human environment, should play a part in the pastoral practice regarding Baptism. “Christian instruction and the preparation for Baptism are a vital concern of God’s people, the Church, which hands on and nourishes the faith it has received from the Apostles.” This active participation by the Christian people, which has already come into use in the case of adults, is also required for the Baptism of infants, in which “the People of God, that is the Church, made present in the local community, has an important part to play.” In addition, the community itself will as a rule draw great profit, both spiritual and apostolic, from the Baptism ceremony. Finally, the community’s work will continue, after the liturgical celebration, through the contribution of the adults to the education of the young in faith, both by the witness of their own Christian lives and by their participation in various catechetical activities.”
During the Mass for the Catholic feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which commemorates Jesus’ own baptism in the Jordan River, Francis administered the sacrament on 32 infants, 15 of whom were girls and 17 were boys.
In his homily, he told parents that ‘to baptize a child is an act of justice,” because through baptism “we give them a treasure, in baptism we give them a pledge: The Holy Spirit. The child leaves with the strength of the Holy Spirit inside, the Spirit which will defend them, help them, throughout their whole lives.'”
We are putting place a Team to offer Baptism Preparation, as a joint enterprise, in both of our Parishes. It is a work in progress.
No one has been refused a Baptism during the pandemic but they have made aware of the limitations in celebrating Baptisms during a pandemic. Patience and a bit of common sense are needed by all, especially those who are, it seems, confident of their knowledge and experience, as we seek to move forward. It is good to deal in realities and the facts of the situation before counselling others on actions to take. No educated committed Catholic would advise new parents to sidestep Church teaching and practice to “get it done quick” by scouring the country to find a priest who does Baptism on demand! The pandemic has delayed many Baptisms and it difficult to provide Instruction and Preparation. Further, few wanted baptism ceremonies where family and friends could not be present.
The Church refers to the family as “The Domestic Church”, but, as are individuals, families are part of the Body of Christ, The Universal Church, and Parishes and Parish Churches are an essential part of the life and dynamic of the living Church. The Church and its Altar, should be at the centre of the parish and that is where we celebrate and receive The Eucharist “the source and summit of our salvation” and are fed in Word and Sacrament. It is, at it were, another cornerstone of the Church. It is also the primary instrument of Evangelisation, but for all of the Church, Jesus is the Foundation Stone and is the only mediator between humanity and his Father and ours.
We have a duty to welcome and encourage local, young, families to accept the embrace of their local parish, to ensure its continued work and presence, and so that the new families will enrich the community that welcomes them. To do anything else is clearly wrong.
THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE.
A DIOCESAN STATEMENT ON MARRIAGE – usually read and/or published twice a year:
Preparation for First Holy Communion (and the programme normally incorporates The Sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation is a Parish based programme, and it will normally be offered to children in year 3 or above. As each Course is launched details will be published in the Parish Bulletin. As with Baptism, any Parent seeking to have their child admitted to The Course would ensure they they, and the child, are attending/celebrating Holy Mass in Church each Sunday and Holyday.