Tag Archives: Baptism

Hints of Easter and baptism this Sunday

March 20, 2020


It is the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Easter is only three weeks away, and Baptism moves to the forefront on Easter. Catechumens are baptized at the Easter Vigil. The faithful renew their baptismal promises and are sprinkled with holy water at the Easter Masses. This weekend the Scripture readings offer hints of Baptism that point ahead to Easter and the celebration of the greatest feast of the Christian faith.

There are four symbols of the Sacrament of Baptism. Three appear explicitly in this week’s Scripture readings: oil, light, and water; and one is implied, the baptismal garment.

Pool of SiloamThe conclusion to the first reading recounts how “Samuel, with the horn of oil in his hand, anointed [David] in the midst of his brothers, and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David” (1 Sm 16:13). The anointing of David with oil by the prophet Samuel prefigures the anointing of the catechumen with sacred chrism by the priest during the celebration of Baptism at the Easter Vigil, or the anointing with oil when anyone is baptized at any other time by a priest or deacon.

Both the second reading and the gospel mention light. St. Paul wrote, “Live as children of light” (Eph 5:8), and “Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:14). In the gospel Jesus says, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). The Easter Vigil begins with the Lucernarium, the Service of Light. Either at dusk outside or in the darkness inside, a fire is lit which ablaze gives off much light. Then the Easter Candle is lit, which radiates bright light. Next the deacon presents the lighted Easter Candle to the assembly and sings, “The Light of Christ,” because Jesus is the light of the world (see also Jn 8:12 and 12:46). Fire is then distributed to each person in the assembly, all who are holding candles, and gradually the church is filled with light. Finally, when the catechumen is baptized, a baptismal candle is lit from the Easter Candle and presented to the sponsor. Henceforth, the light of Jesus will lead the newly baptized to the truth and guide the person along right paths (see Ps 23:3).

The gospel builds upon the previous Scripture texts and includes three baptismal symbols. First, Jesus stated that he is light (Jn 9:5). Second, he bent down, made a mud paste with his saliva and the clay, and then smeared it on the man’s eyes (Jn 9:6). The Church has traditionally considered the smearing to be an anointing, and the mud paste to be equivalent to oil. Third, Jesus instructed the man, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (Jn 9:7), and the man washed himself with water, the primary symbol of baptism. This points ahead to the Easter Vigil. The baptismal liturgy begins at the baptistry with the blessing of the water, and then those to be baptized are immersed in the water or have water poured over their heads.

The connections are many. David was anointed. The blind man was anointed. The catechumen will be anointed. Every person who has been baptized has been anointed. The light enables a person to see Jesus, and thus enlightened, to believe in him and do good. Those who are washed in the waters of baptism are among God’s chosen ones, “The Elect,” those who have their names inscribed in the Book of Life. Samuel chose David. Jesus chose the blind man. God chooses the newly baptized, as well as all those who have been baptized previously. The baptized have clothed themselves with Christ. Baptism is the beginning of the journey to eternal life.

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10 questions to increase your Catholic IQ

August 26, 2011


question marks

Image by Valerie Everett. Licensed under Creative Commons.

A newly-ordained priest said during a homily recently that when he left seminary he realized he didn’t know everything.

He was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but his comments made me think about how much there is to know about the Catholic Faith.  No matter how many questions we answer, I think we’ll always have more because ultimately, God is a mystery.

Here are 10 intriguing questions about the Faith–not in any order–that readers and other inquiring Catholics have sent in for this blog. I’m curious about which ones you’re most interested in or if there are others (and I’m sure there are) that didn’t make the list.

  1. What is a miracle?
  2. Why do we baptize babies?
  3. What is an indulgence?
  4. What does the Church teach about cremation?
  5. Why do we need to confess our sins to a priest?
  6. What is penance and is it just for Lent?
  7. What does the Church teach about polygamy?
  8. What is natural law?
  9. What is intinction?
  10. Why do we pray to saints?

I’d also like to know if anyone ever asks you questions about the faith–either other Catholics or non-Catholics. Are there topics for which you’d like to have an answer ready, in case they come up again? Do you ever wish you could engage Mormons or evangelical groups in conversation about faith when they come to the door, but don’t quite know how to express your beliefs?

These are good reasons to keep asking questions about the Catholic Faith. Look for answers to the 10 intriguing questions in future posts. And email in what you’ve been wondering about!



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Infant Baptism

January 4, 2011


Sacrament of Baptism at Immaculate Heart in Cross Lake

The Sometimes-Heard Objection to Infant Baptism. Some parents and Christian groups believe that the Sacrament of Baptism should be delayed until adolescence or adulthood, to a time when the person is fully capable to maturely and freely decide on their own to be a Christian.

Adult Baptism at First. The earliest persons to receive the Sacrament of Baptism were adults. After Peter delivered his speech on the first Pentecost, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added that day” (Acts 2:41). It is presumed that these first converts were adults because they had to be old enough to accept the message. After Peter’s second speech, “Many of those who heard the word came to believe” (Acts 4:4); and no infant is old enough to hear and comprehend. After the apostles worked signs and wonders, “Men and women were added” (Acts 5:14). The Ethiopian eunuch was an adult convert (Acts 8:38). So was Saul (Acts 9:18) and Cornelius (Acts 10:48).

An Early Biblical Precedent for Extending Baptism. When Paul first preached in Philippi, Lydia became the first Christian believer in Europe. Lydia was not the only person to be baptized. Wonderfully both she “and her household” (Acts 16:15) were baptized. A typical household is a mother, father, and children. The entire family was brought into the Body of Christ on the basis of Lydia’s faith, including the children who, if young enough, would not have been old enough to decide for themselves. Other examples of household baptisms include the families of the jailer (Acts 16:33), Crispus (Acts 18:8), and Stephanas (1 Cor 1:16).

Infant Baptism from the Outset. “The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on” (No. 1252, Catechism of the Catholic Church).

Official Church Teaching on Infant Baptism. “Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks” (Canon 867.1). This teaching is based upon the high rate of infant mortality over the centuries, even in some areas today; the need to blot out original sin; and the desire to access sacramental grace as quickly as possible. The urgency for Baptism within “the first few weeks” has been modified somewhat in light of improved infant survival rates and a better understanding of the gift of salvation. The Church also teaches that “For an infant to be baptized licitly: the parents or at least one of them must consent; [and] there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed” (Canon 868.1, 868.2).

A Family of Faith. When it comes to Baptism, it is “the sooner, the better.” Infants should be incorporated into the Body of Christ without delay. If the parents are members of the Church, their children should be members with them. If the parents are practicing their faith, their children should be raised in the same faith and practice it together as a family. The greatest privilege and duty of parents is to pass on the gift of faith to their children.

Learning the Language of Faith. When it comes to learning a foreign language, it is easier for a child than an adult. This is evident in school curriculums in which foreign languages are taught in earlier grades, and in adult learners who have difficulty speaking without an accent. It is the same with our Catholic faith. It is easier to learn as a child. Children assimilate the faith from their parents. If the parents believe in God, say their prayers, go to Mass, and love each other, so will the children. Then, when they are older, when the time comes for them to choose for themselves, because they have learned the language of faith and have built a firm foundation, it is much more likely that they will choose the Catholic faith for themselves.

Beware of Empty Arguments. Some say, “Let them decide as adults.” When an unbaptized child becomes an adult, it is much less likely the person will choose to become a baptized Catholic. Why? Because people rarely choose what they do not know or do not value. Please, do not be fooled. The Church’s teaching on infant baptism is on solid rock.

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