The pastoral associate at our NO parish makes a point of insisting every year that we don’t do Baptisms during Lent, supposedly as a way of showing unity with the Catechumens. A couple of years ago, for my daughter that was born in late February, I effectively demanded the sacrament for her based on on CCC 1250, which tasks both the Church and the parents to “confer Baptism shortly after birth” without noting any exception based on the liturgical calendar. Our pastor was on my side and so obviously the Baptism occurred (during Lent, much to the PA’s chagrin). This practice of delaying the sacrament continues at our parish unless one gets the pastor involved.
The question is: Is there a tradition of such a practice as delaying Baptism until after Lent? Is such a practice documented anywhere?
In the ancient Church, baptisms most often involved adults. They were done at the Easter Vigil, after a lengthy period of catechesis.
While it’s always good to look back to the foundations of our faith for guidance and direction, it’s also good to look at why our forebears stopped doing what they did.
Once Christianity was legalized and being Christian didn’t automatically subject one to suspicion, probable arrest and likely execution, we could be a bit more open about how we welcomed newcomers into the faith. Coupled with Christ’s clear command to baptize, we started baptizing new believers, including children, more frequently. No longer a once-a-year event, baptism came to be relatively commonplace.
Fast forward to today. There is no prohibition in the law against baptizing during the season of Lent. None.
Canon 867 in the 1983 CIC places on parents the obligation to have their infants baptized “in the first few weeks.”
The ritual books place a preference on baptizing adults at the Easter Vigil, but even that is not mandatory.
Baptism should come when the adult has “manifested the intention to receive baptism, been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate.”
Baptism. It’s not a thing to be trifled with. It should not be delayed too long, especially out of what might sometimes but a sentimental reason.