JMC : The Catholic Religion / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

Baptism and Confirmation.

236. Baptism is a Sacrament; for it has all the requisites (n. 228). 1. There is the outward sign in the matter and form (n. 229); 2. There is the inward grace, in the cleansing from sin, signified by the matter and form 3. There is the institution of Christ, who said "Going therefore teach ye all nations, baptizing them" etc. (Matt. XXVIII. 19). That water is to be used for the washing, is clear from the words of Christ "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Jo. III, 5). The washing must be done while the form is being pronounced; else the significance is lacking. The neglect of this rule makes Baptism as administered by some of the sects, of doubtful validity. The water must flow over the person else he is not washed. Therefore sprinkling is not the safest manner of baptizing; it may moisten the clothes only, or the hair, or some minor part of the body, thus exposing the Sacrament to invalidity. The rubrics of the Church provide against these defects, especially in those lands where the Sovereign Pontiff is able to control all details. In the Western Church the law requires that the water be poured upon the head, while he who pours it pronounces the form "N. I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost". It directs moreover, that if, after thorough examination of all the details, any doubt remain about the validity of the Sacrament, the ceremony be carefully repeated, premising the condition, "If thou art not baptized" (n. 238).

237. While the observance of these rubrics is obligatory, the Church admits that Baptism may also be validly administered by immersion or by sprinkling. In fact, immersion was the most usual manner during the first fourteen centuries; and St. Cyprian in the third century speaks of immersion or sprinkling as alternate modes of baptizing (Ep. ad Magn.). It is not likely that the three thousand men converted on the first Pentecost were all immersed, nor that this mode was applied to any in severe illness. We have the living Church to direct all things for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. While the form of Baptism is undoubtedly the one quoted above (n. 236), we read the words of St. Peter: "Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts II, 38); but he was not then laying down the form, but distinguishing between Christian Baptism and other rites known to the Jews, such as the rite of St. John the Baptist.

238. The ordinary minister of a solemn Baptism is the parish priest or the Bishop, or, with proper leave, any other priest or a deacon. But any man, woman, or child, that has the use of reason, can baptize validly, and, in danger of death, may do so lawfully. Therefore the Baptism given by Protestant ministers is certainly valid, if it is properly administered. But the Quakers and the Socinians do not confer this Sacrament at all: the Congregationalists, Unitarians, and Universalists treat it as of little importance: even most of the Episcopalians consider it as only a pious ceremony, not necessary for salvation. Therefore, in these sects, and in many others, little care is often taken to secure its valid administration. Every convert from Protestantism must, in consequence, be carefully questioned whether he was certainly baptized, and whether in a valid manner. If, in a matter of such importance, no certainty can be obtained, the person must be baptized under condition (n. 236). This condition is added through respect for the Sacramental character, which may already be impressed on the soul and a similar precaution must be observed whenever any other Sacrament that imprints an indelible character is in question.

239. Every human being not already baptized is a subject capable of receiving Baptism. To do so worthily, adults should believe all the teachings of the faith, at least implicitly, and should be sorry for their sins. But infants, and those perpetually deprived of reason, should be baptized as soon as possible; this was the practice of the faithful in the earliest ages. St. Irenaeus wrote in the second century: "He (Christ) came to save all through Himself, all, I repeat, who through Him are born again unto God: infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and elders" (Adv. Haer. L. II, C. 22). Infant Baptism was not assailed till the 16th century, when the turbulent faction of the Anabaptists began a crusade against it; the modern Baptists have adopted their error. (See nn. 241, 361, III.)

240. The effects of Baptism are the following: 1. Pardon of all sin, original and actual; for the Apostles baptised men for the remission of their sins (Acts II, 38). 2. Release from all temporal punishment due to sin. This and the first named effects are defined by the Council of Trent (Sess. 5, can. 5). 3. The Character impressed. 4. Adoption as sons of God, members of Christ (Gal. III, 27), and members of the Church (Acts II, 4m).

241. The Council of Trent declares that, since the promulgation of the Gospel, justification cannot be obtained without Baptism of water, or the desire of it: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Jo. III, 5). St. Irenaeus writes that the denial of Baptism is the suggestion of Satan (Adv. Haer. L. I, c. 21). But when the Sacrament cannot be received, pardon of sin can be obtained by the Baptism of Desire or that of Blood.

What is called the Baptism of Desire, or of the Spirit, or of Fire, consists of a perfect love of God and sorrow for sin, with the explicit or implicit desire of the Sacrament. That such love of God justifies, is clear from Christ's words: "He that loveth Me shall be loved by my Father" (Jo. XIV, 21). Such love contains implicitly the desire to obey God, and therefore to receive Baptism, as one of the ordinances of God. Pope St. Pius V, defined against Baius that charity is always conjoined with the remission of sin. With regard to the Baptism of Blood, it is the constant doctrine of the Fathers that all men who suffer Martyrdom for Christ attain remission of all sin and all punishment of sin, whether they be infants or adults. Now a "Martyr" (maptup, witness), as here understood, is one who patiently suffers death, or treatment which would naturally cause death, for the Catholic faith, or for the practice of any Christian virtue. We say "one who patiently suffers", and by this we mean one who offers no resistance; for Tertullian expressly denies that soldiers who fall fighting in battle can be called Martyrs, however good the cause for which they die. The doctrines that Martyrdom forgives all sin, the Fathers deduce from Christ's words "Every one that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess before my Father, who is in Heaven" (Matt. X, 32). And St. Augustine protests that it is an insult to pray for a Martyr, to whose prayers we ought rather to recommend ourselves.

In the Creed read at the Mass we confess "one Baptism for the remission of sins". When therefore St. Gregory or Nazianzen spoke of the Baptism of Water, of Martyrdom, and of Tears, he did not mean that there are three Baptisms, but that Baptism could be shared by adults in these modes. In the monuments of revelation no other mode of Baptism is found.

Therefore infants who die without Baptism of Water or of Blood, have, since the promulgation of the gospel, no means of reaching the supernatural vision of God, which constitutes the happiness of Heaven. Their nature gives them no right to a supernatural reward; they do not necessarily feel unhappy in consequence, if they do not long for what is not proportionate to their nature.

242. The second of the seven Sacraments is Confirmation. In it, by the imposition of the Bishop's hands and annointing with chrism, those who have been baptized receive the Holy Ghost to render them perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.

It has all the requisites of a Sacrament: a) The outward sign, in the matter and form; b) The giving of inward grace, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the soul; c) The institution of Christ. For only God can attach grace-giving power to an outward act. That Confirmation has such power is proved by Scripture and Tradition, and by the Council of Trent (Sess. 7). The Acts narrate that after the deacon Philip had baptized the Samaritans, the Apostles Peter and John "Laid hands upon them and they received the Holy Ghost" (VIII, 17). St. Paul did the same at Ephesus (ib. XIX, 5). St. Cyprian, commenting on these texts, says: "This is also done among us, namely that those who are baptized in the Church are presented to the rulers of the Church; and by our prayer and imposition of the hand they receive the Holy Ghost and are perfected by the sign of the Lord" (Ep. 73). St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote an entire Catechism on this Sacrament, which also ranks among the seven Sacraments in all the ancient oriental sects.

143. We shall now explain Confirmation in detail. 1. Its remote matter is holy chrism, that is a mixture of olive oil and balm, blessed by the Bishop. Pope Fabian states that the Apostles received the composition of chrism from our Lord, and that they transmuted it to us (Ep. 3 ad Ep. Or.). The proximate matter consists most probable in the imposition of hands and annointing with chrism. The form is in the words: "I sign thee with the sign of the Cross, and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost". 2. Tradition shows that the ordinary minister is a Bishop, but that a priest may be delegated by the Pope to confer Confirmation with chrism blessed by a Bishop. 3. The subject is any baptized person not yet confirmed. He should be in the state of grace; and, if line is of age, he should be properly instructed. 4. The effects of Confirmation are an increase of sanctifying grace, and copious actual graces openly and patiently to profess the faith, and to combat against our spiritual enemies, the world, the devil, and the flesh. For such effects were manifestly produced in the Apostles, when they received the Holy Ghost at the first Pentecost (Acts II, 1-4); and these effects are signified by the matter and form of the Sacrament. For instance, oil, by its nature unctuous and fluid, signifies the plenitude of grace which flows from Christ our Head, "from whose fulness we have all received" (Jo. I, 16). Balsam, besides preserving incorrupt all it emnbalms, denotes that we are "the good odor of Christ unto God" (2 Cor. II; 15). The miraculous manifestations of the first Pentecost were often repeated in the early ages, but they do not belong to time ordinary course of God's providence, and therefore they are no part of the Sacrament. 5. Though Confirmation is not necessary for salvation; yet he who refuses or neglects to receive this powerful means of grace is careless of his salvation; and, by slighting such a gift of God, is guilty of an irreverence which may often amount to a mortal sin.

<< ======= >>