Many prelates from around the world would stay at my residence in Rome when they would come for business with the Roman curia. As a result, at mealtimes you would find yourself eating with Bp. X or Archbp. Y or Card. Z from here there and everywhere. At a certain point you start to take a little less notice of these fellows as they would come and go.
In one case, I recall for several days being on pretty much the same schedule as a visiting priest from Argentina. He was a very pleasant fellow, whose Italian wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad. He was clearly very smart and had a serene and affable way about him, though he wasn’t loquacious. We chatted for some days and enjoyed company at meals. Normally, I would just stick to small talk with visitors, and let them guide how far they wanted to talk about their business.
Then one day as I was leaving the palazzo, he was getting out of a car and coming in, wearing under a greca the house cassock, fascia, and zucchetto of a Cardinal of Holy Roman Church.
It turns out that it was Jorge Card. Bergoglio I had been lunching with.
Since he had impressed me simply as a person, I started paying more attention to him and what he had done. I asked around and learned a little about this S. American prelate.
When the Holy Father John Paul II died, I was pretty convinced that Card. Bergoglio was papabile, and didn’t rule out that he had the potential of being elected. His draw back for that prospect was more than likely his membership in the Society of Jesus. Card. Bergoglio is a Jesuit, and there has never been a Jesuit Pope.
The gentlemanly Sandro Magister has a post on Card. Bergoglio, and I recommend it.
Effectively, Card. Bergoglio thinks that baptism should be given more freely even to the children of those who are not practicing their faith. Some time ago, Pope Benedict also said something along these lines, explaining that when he was younger, he had a more restrictive view. The Church in S. America is facing a horrible challenge from secularism and relativism on the one hand, fundamentalist sects on the other.
Here is a big chunk of the article, though I recommend that you read the whole thing:
In some parts of Europe, baptizing a child has already become the exception, requiring an unconventional decision. But now, the number of unbaptized infants, children, young people, adults is also rising in Argentina.
This decline in the practice of baptism is the result of a weakening of family ties and a withdrawal from the Church. Some of the clergy have drawn this conclusion: where they see the signs of faith being extinguished, they maintain that it is right to decline to administer the sacraments.
But in Argentina today, the Church authorities are moving in the opposite direction.
Already in 2002, the archdiocese of Buenos Aires and the diocese in the surrounding area had published an instruction urgently recommending the baptism of both children and adults, and explaining how to overcome resistance to the celebration of the rite.
But now the bishops of the area have returned to the task with a booklet entitled "El bautismo en clave misionera," which reproduces the 2002 instruction and supplements it with other guidelines for parish pastors.
So beginning this year, the most conscientious pastors are regularly holding "baptism days," on which they administer the sacrament to children and adults in situations of poverty or with broken families, who have been helped to overcome their own uncertainties and those of the people around them.
Cardinal Bergoglio has explained the meaning of all this in an interview with the international magazine "30 Days":
"The child has no responsibility for the condition of his parents’ marriage. The baptism of children can, on the contrary, become a new beginning for the parents. A while ago, I baptized the seven children of one woman, a poor widow who works as a maid and had her children by two different men. I met her on the feast of Saint Cajetan. She said to me, ‘Father, I am in mortal sin, I have seven children and have never had them baptized, I don’t have the money for the godparents and for the party… I saw her again and after a little catechesis I baptized them in the chapel of the archepiscopal residence. The woman said to me, ‘Father, I can’t believe it, you make me feel important’. I said to her, ‘But madam, what do I have to do with it? It’s Jesus who makes you important." [Do I hear a big "Amen!"?]
Bergoglio is anxious not to extinguish a tradition typical of the most remote areas of Argentina, in those towns and villages where the priest comes only a few times a year:
"There, popular piety feels that children must be baptized as soon as possible, so there are men or women known by all as ‘bautizadores’ who baptize the children when they are born, in anticipation of the arrival of the priest. And when he arrives, they bring the children to him so that he can anoint them with holy oil, completing the rite. When I think about it, I am reminded of the story of those Christian communities in Japan that were without priests for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned, they found all of them baptized and all of them sacramentally married."
The cardinal continues:
"The conference in Aparecida urged us to proclaim the Gospel by going to meet the people, not by waiting for the people to come to us. Missionary fervor does not require extraordinary events. It is in ordinary life that mission work is done. And baptism, in this, is paradigmatic. The sacraments are for the life of men and women as they are. They may not make big speeches, but their ‘sensus fidei’ grasps the reality of the sacraments with more clarity than many specialists do."
What reemerges here is the ancient and still unresolved dispute between a Church of the elite, a pure, minority Church, and a Church of the masses, populated also by that immense sea of humanity for whom Christianity is made up of a few simple things.
In Italy, for example, the dispute came up again during the last major national conference of the Church, held in Verona in October of 2006. On that occasion, one position held by the "rigorists" was precisely that of withholding baptism and the other sacraments from those believed to be unfit because they are not practicing. [A position which can be argued and defended.]
It is a dilemma that Joseph Ratzinger himself experienced personally as a young man, and finally resolved in the same direction indicated by Cardinal Bergoglio. This is what, as pope, Ratzinger himself said in replying to the question from a priest of Bressanone, in a public question-and-answer session with the clergy of the diocese on August 6, 2008.
The priest, named Paolo Rizzi, a pastor and professor of theology, asked Benedict XVI a question about baptism, confirmation, and first communion:
"Holy Father, 35 years ago I thought that we were beginning to be a little flock, a minority community, more or less everywhere in Europe; that we should therefore administer the sacraments only to those who are truly committed to Christian life. Then, partly because of the style of John Paul II’s Pontificate, I thought things through again. If it is possible to make predictions for the future, what do you think? What pastoral approaches can you suggest to us?". [What an excellent question to put to Peter.]
Pope Ratzinger responded:
"I must say that I took a similar route to yours. When I was younger I was rather severe. I said: the sacraments are sacraments of faith, and where faith does not exist, where the practice of faith does not exist, the Sacrament cannot be conferred either. And then I always used to talk to my parish priest when I was Archbishop of Munich: here too there were two factions, one severe and one broad-minded. Then [wait for it….] I too, with time, came to realize that we must follow, rather, the example of the Lord, who was very open even with people on the margins of Israel of that time. He was a Lord of mercy, too open – according to many official authorities – with sinners, welcoming them or letting them invite him to their dinners, drawing them to him in his communion.
"Therefore I would say substantially that the sacraments are naturally sacraments of faith: when there is no element of faith, when First Communion is no more than a great lunch with beautiful clothes and beautiful gifts, it can no longer be a sacrament of faith. [So, he is not saying we should apply no criteria.] Yet, on the other hand, if we can still see a little flame of desire for communion in the faith, a desire even in these children who want to enter into communion with Jesus, it seems to me that it is right to be rather broad-minded.
"Naturally, of course, one purpose of our catechesis must be to make children understand that Communion, First Communion is not a ‘fixed’ event, but requires a continuity of friendship with Jesus, a journey with Jesus. I know that children often have the intention and desire to go to Sunday Mass but their parents do not make this desire possible. If we see that children want it, that they have the desire to go, this seems to me almost a sacrament of desire, the ‘will’ to participate in Sunday Mass. In this sense, we naturally must do our best in the context of preparation for the sacraments to reach the parents as well, and thus to – let us say – awaken in them too a sensitivity to the process in which their child is involved. They should help their children to follow their own desire to enter into friendship with Jesus, which is a form of life, of the future. If parents want their children to be able to make their First Communion, this somewhat social desire must be extended into a religious one, to make a journey with Jesus possible.
"I would say, therefore, that in the context of the catechesis of children, that work with parents is very important. And this is precisely one of the opportunities to meet with parents, making the life of faith also present to the adults, because, it seems to me, they themselves can relearn the faith from the children and understand that this great solemnity is only meaningful, true and authentic if it is celebrated in the context of a journey with Jesus, in the context of a life of faith. Thus, one should endeavour to convince parents, through their children, of the need for a preparatory journey that is expressed in participation in the mysteries and that begins to make these mysteries loved.
"I would say that this is definitely an inadequate answer, [Gosh… see how harsh and rigorous Pope Benedict is? The former "enforcer" of doctrine?] but the pedagogy of faith is always a journey and we must accept today’s situations. Yet, we must also open them more to each person, so that the result is not only an external memory of things that endures but that their hearts that have truly been touched. The moment when we are convinced the heart is touched – it has felt a little of Jesus’ love, it has felt a little the desire to move along these lines and in this direction, that is the moment when, it seems to me, we can say that we have made a true catechesis. The proper meaning of catechesis, in fact, must be this: to bring the flame of Jesus’ love, even if it is a small one, to the hearts of children, and through the children to their parents, thus reopening the places of faith of our time."
or Card. Z
hmm. Kind of has a ring to it.
Thanks for the encouraging post on a hard topic. As a parish priest, infant baptism is among the parts of my ministry that are hardest on me interiorly. It’s where I meet the average North American Catholic–the one who doesn’t practice the faith. Arguments over proposing Jewish and Muslim godparents wear me out. It really weighs on my heart; when I imagined parish priesthood I thought that infant baptism would be an enjoyable and lighthearted aspect of the ministry. Instead, it’s one of the hardest on my soul.
Nevertheless, I pray always for the grace to be an evangelical aggressor rather than a bitter victim (there are already too many of these among us priests!) and to use these opportunities as missionary moments: to preach and catechize as best I can so as to ‘catch’ folks for the faith, to be a “fisher of men.” And when I see that set of new parents having returned to prayer and Sunday Mass, it’s all worth it.
It is your story of meeting His Eminence that stuck out to me. I remember during the two years I spent at Conception Seminary College there were nearly always guests at the retreat center, especially on the weekends. Often, these guests would find their way to the Alumni Union for a bit in the evenings.
On one particular evening, a middle aged man wearing a polo style shirt came in and sat on the barstool next to me. While most guests wanted to know about life in the seminary or your vocation story, this gentleman and I discussed current affairs, popular culture, and the world around us. It was so, well, ordinary and yet extra-ordinary, given the setting.
After some time, one of my classmates came in, walked up to me and said, “Chris, I see you’ve met my Bishop!” I nearly fell off the stool. The man with whom I had just had such an ordinary conversation turned out to be His Excellency, David Ricken, then Bishop of Cheyenne, now of Green Bay.
I will never forget that evening.
There were reports* in April/May of 2005 that Cardinal Bergoglio wasn’t just papabile, but was THE alternative** to Cardinal Ratzinger. With only 4 ballots, it’s difficult to see how he could have mounted a real challenge to Ratzinger, but that’s what the reports were.
* Obviously to be taken with a shaker of salt.
** Not “alternative” in the sense of “opponent” or “enemy.”
As far as the administering of sacraments, I agree that great leniency should be used in the case of children and the dying.
I tend to agree that as much as possible people should be baptized, if you asked me, one of the big problems in the Middle East (the violence, etc…) is that there are relatively few baptized individuals in that part of the world. Its quite scary to think fewer and fewer are being baptized in general.
That quote from Pope Benedict about preparing children for First Communion should be read to every parent of a child to receive his/her first communion. Our parish, at least the past few years, had a mandatory catechesis session for parents. It has room to improve, but I really think that is a time to call people to their conscience about properly raising their children in the faith.
I have no idea how that bracket occurred. It was supposed to be the first “*”.
If they ever need a body-double for Cardinal Bergoglio, I would recommend Jonathan Pryce…kind of eerie the similarity!
Is there something specific about Baptism that makes it desirable to facilitate it’s practice? Communion is also discussed here and it seems that Pope Benedict is a little less willing to say that it should be practiced liberally. Is it just that the child has no control over the situation into which they are born? Hmm…
I think I’ll forward the pope’s response to some of the keeners in the Confirmation class at the Parish. Thanks!
I am reminded of the story of those Christian communities in Japan that were without priests for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned, they found all of them baptized and all of them sacramentally married.”
I’m a bit confused by this one. I know about the hidden Catholic communities in Japan, and understand that they were properly baptized. I am confused, however, as to how they were sacramentally married.
My guess is that it rests upon the understanding the sacrament of marriage is confered by the couple to one another. I was wondering, however, if there was also a formula of marriage in the absence of a priest akin to that whereby one can baptize in the absence of a priest.
Baptized people who marry each other are sacramentally married. I’m no canon lawyer, but “There’s no priest or deacon within 200 miles or 200 years” is a perfectly good dispensation from any defects of form.
“Baptized people who marry each other are sacramentally married.”
Really, because my cousin and her husband are both baptized and confirmed, and they were married in a outdoor civil ceremony by her father who got a one-time licence for the occasion.
Thank you for posting the article, Father. I was having a related conversation a few weeks back, and it’s interesting to see in which direction the Church is thinking on this.
It’s funny that you mention that Card. Bergoglio’s Italian “wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t bad.”
I had always assumed that Bergoglio was of Italian descent (and he may be, based on his last name). I have many relatives in Argentina on the Italian side of my family. There are millions of Argentines of Italian descent. Apparently in the late 1800’s-early 1900’s, when millions of Italians were coming to the U.S., millions were also going to Argentina, Brazil, and other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
It’s also my understanding that many Argentines of Italian descent speak a mixed dialect using words and phrases drawn from both Italian and Spanish. It’s an interesting country demographically speaking.
A few months back, I was having dinner with a Jesuit friend (we’ll call him Jesuit 1) and he had brought along another Jesuit (Jesuit 2) friend of his who worked in Rome (these are Jesuits in the mold of Fr. Hardon and, quite emphatically, not of Fr. Drinan) and somehow the conversation turned from whatever it was to Cdl. Bergoglio and he said something like “You know, Cdl. Bergoglio isn’t particularly well-liked in the Jesuit curia.”
Which prompted a toast to His Eminence. (The RUMOR was that after the 4th ballot, Cdl. Bergoglio removed himself pretty firmly from consideration.)
Incidentally, for those whose Spanish is pretty good, Cdl. Bergoglio’s letters and homilies are online and worth seeking out. He speaks ceaselessly about moving, actively, towards a life-altering encounter with the living Christ. Some translations can be found at CardinalRating.com or http://tinyurl.com/ykyxzvl
FrCharles, as a laywoman, mother of many, and a catechist, I understand, as I can, your concern about Baptism. How many times I’ve scrambled trying to find the right sponsors, since the relatives really don’t care except for the pretty lace and the luncheon. Even so, we’re commanded to baptize to the ends of the earth. How can one not obey the Great Commission? Even the most unlikely little saints must be given that initial spark. Even the most unlikely parents must come in contact with the Church in order to fully embrace Her. Yesterday’s reading – How can they know if they have not heard, etc… Baptism is the entry point for both parent and child! Some parishes offer “parenting classes” of one form or another before or after the sacrament, much like marriage prep. All we can do is keep preaching and teaching! *Keep your chins up, dear priests!* Even if the layfolks seem out to lunch, the sacraments are absolutely efficacious.
How God works. I have been taking the hard line for quite a while. But lately, I have been thinking about it. We are beginning a Year of Evangelization in my diocese and this might also be a great opportunity to pull them through the doors and remain.
“As a result, at mealtimes you would find yourself eating with Bp. X or Archbp. Y or Card. Z”
What are the pastoral issues when the parents of children presented for Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation are in a same-sex marriage? This happens in Massachusetts. I can’t see denying a sacrament to a innocent child (especially Baptism). But it bothered me when two Boston area gay activists used their adopted child’s First Communion to push a “Gay, Catholic, Proud” agenda.
Massachusetts Catholic – I would try to keep the issue of administering sacraments to the child separate from the outrageous antics of the parents. If the child is to obtain heaven in spite of his upbringing, he’s going to need all the grace he can get. Don’t quite know how clergy would accomplish that however!
“Cdl. Bergoglio…speaks ceaselessly about moving, actively, towards a life-altering encounter with the living Christ.”
Sounds very CL (Communion and Liberation) to me. Not a bad path to follow.
I think it’s better to be “safe than sorry.” I’m a mother of 4 children, I attend daily Mass, and with my last child (a 2 y/o- the oldest is a teen), I STILL had to attend the baptism class. Very frustrating. I truly felt like the lady in charge of it at the parish saw herself as a “gatekeeper”, and she wasn’t very welcoming. Yeah, there were couples in the class who may not be regular churchgoers, but why not make them feel welcome? I’m sure the word gets around about how restrictive/hard it is to get the baby baptized…. and fewer babies are given God’s grace. :( I’m not old enough, but I long for the days when baby got baptized at 2 days old.
How interesting to read about the Bautizadores, how beautiful!
I don’t have the money for the godparents and for the party…
This jumped out at me. I have a huge bee in my bonnet with all the “trappings” associated with the Sacraments that have become in many peoples’ minds more important than just getting it done.
Everything (white dresses, flowers, photos, fancy parties, etc.) associated with the associated with baptisms and First Communions and weddings are optional except actually performing the Sacrament itself. If that means you simply wear your Sunday best to the church and celebrate afterward with a homemade cake and a few soft drinks, so be it!
I don’t mean to poo-poo the legitimate questions surrounding the baptism of children of parents of questionable-to-nonexistent practice, and the “gatekeeper” mentality ckdexterhaven described. But there is another huge obstacle here, fueled by our own prideful desires to keep up with the Joneses.
Re: baptism of children
Baptism has a lot of graces that pop up throughout someone’s life. I know a friend who’s a very devout Christian of a small sect, who was brought into it by a lady on her street to whom she wasn’t related. Her parents didn’t go to church, didn’t like church, and didn’t like her to go out of the house, much less go far away with strangers. Yet somehow they allowed this unrelated neighbor woman to take their kid — their handicapped kid — far away every Sunday to a nest of strangers for hours and hours. Why? I always wondered.
I later found out from her that she was baptized as a baby in the Episcopal church that some relatives attend, at their insistence.
She doesn’t believe in infant baptism, thanks to the neighbor lady’s teachings; but I’d say her baptism’s graces have worked on her.
Re: baptized people marrying
I did mention defects of form. Baptized people marrying each other in a way the Church doesn’t approve — that’s a whole different ballgame. Necessity in a decapitated and isolated group of Catholics? That’s not being disobedient.
Next time any of our little suburban friends are trapped in a country full of persecutors who have successfully killed every priest and bishop and deacon, they’ll also have a case. The Church hasn’t been particularly picky about sacramentality regs in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, either, where necessity existed. You can’t do it with every Sacrament; but Baptism and Matrimony are different from the rest in their bedrock requirements.
This is the same cardinal who prohibits the Tridentine Mass in the diocesis except for the mass said two blocks away from my flat by a priest who hates the TLM and celebrates the NO with drums.
He is the same cardinal who prohibits conservative or semitraditional priests from celebrating mass in his diocesis.
He is the same cardinal who never said anything when groups of extreme left demonstrators made what you do in the bathroom inside the Cathedral and in the main altar.
He is the same cardinal who is said to be influencing to name left bishops. The vast majority of Argentine bishops are like brazilian bishops, all progressive and from the left. Many of them have approved directly or indirectly terrorism during the 70´s in Argentina.
He is the same cardinal who is a friend of a terrorist priest.
He is a good person but do not be confused about his ideas. The masses in the Cathedral include clapping and sometimes dancing. and his theology is bad.
He is an enemy of the Pope but of those who are silent and do not confront.
He is the same cardinal who has changed the translation of argentine missals with a language that is used in the street.
Sorry if I sounded too pessimistic but I have been reading this blog for more than two years as I found a breath of air from the calamities I have to bear in Bergoglio´s diocesis.
For example, there are no conservative nor traditional priests who celebrate mass publicly. And we are talking about BUENOS AIRES.
If you want to meet good people from Argentina you should look at priests who studied in Paraná`s seminary with Archibishop Tortolo in the 70`s. They are now in a couple of places all of them far away from Buenos Aires or Bergoglio´s influece.
Last but not the least, his image outside Argentina is very far away from reality.
“(The RUMOR was that after the 4th ballot, Cdl. Bergoglio removed himself pretty firmly from consideration.)”
I sincerely hope so, since Cardinal Ratzinger was elected on the 4th ballot!
“Is there something specific about Baptism that makes it desirable to facilitate it’s practice?”
This is a lovely explanation by Fr. Hardon – I won’t even attempt to go there other than baptism restores sanctifying grace in our souls; that very grace that was lost through original sin: http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacraments/Sacraments_008.htm
So, yes, the Baptism should be facilitated, which does not mean that this follows automatically for the other sacraments.
Thomas, I meant “PRIOR TO the 4th ballot…” and one thing which is not rumor is that Cdl. Bergoglio had always expressed an avowed desire to NOT be Pope.
Still, it’d be great fun to see (one day) a strong, unambiguously orthodox Jesuit take the Holy See. Oh, how heads would spin…
It may be a oxymoronic construct to put those three words in one sentence: Unambiguous(ly)
Guess that means we will never see an esteemed member of the Company as the Servant of the Servants of God. Deo gratias.
(Full disclosure: graduate of Fordham in the 70s during the post-Land-O-Lakes flush of laicization and dismemberment of that formally great Catholic school, but still managed to hold to my Faith…)
“I would say, therefore, that in the context of the catechesis of children, that work with parents is very important. And this is precisely one of the opportunities to meet with parents, making the life of faith also present to the adults, because, it seems to me, they themselves can relearn the faith from the children…”
What would be lost by mailing the parents of young children a copy of the Baltimore catechism and suggesting that they catechize their little ones at home? In doing so they would catechize themselves.
Generally parents are grateful if you take an interest in the formation of their children.
I have to say that I have seen that through the First Communion Class we have seen that the kids and their parents have started to attend Holy Mass, whereas in the couple of weeks, neither the kids nor their parents were going. Now 80% are attending together.
I have to echo what Margaret posted re: the trimmings and trappings of the “first” Sacraments for children. We are Eastern Rite Catholics (Melkite), so when the baby is baptized (usually verrrrry young, less than 2 wks) he also receives First Eucharist (a tiny bit of the Precious Blood) and Charismation (Confirmation). And you can bet your bottom dollar that we make sure that continually as they grow, they understand that this is Jesus himself they are receiving! I have had a lot of push-back from Latin rite Catholics on this, usually with a tone of, “But what about a First Communion party when they are older??” So for the sake of a party I should deny my child the opportunity to receive our Lord and Saviour, and all the graces that flow from the Sacrament, at an earlier age??
We also have a lot of problems when we attend a Latin Rite mass, trying to explain to the priest that yes, the five-year-old can receive, that he understands that it is the body and blood of Christ, and that he has been receiving for a long time. When the priest refuses him the Blessed Sacrament, as has happened on occasion, the five-year-old is very sad and dejected that he couldn’t receive Jesus that day. Hard to explain to him why not.
Cathmommy, I second your emotion! My daughter (14) is autistic. She will be confirmed this year. I am taking her to PSR/CCD classes and having her “jump through the hoops” as best she can. Fortunately the DRE is understanding of our situation, and believes that the mere fact that we are attending Mass regularly together and she knows her prayers puts her ahead of some of the other kids in the confirmation class!
I sometimes wish the Latin Rite Church would go back to having Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist IN THAT ORDER, and at a younger age comparable to what Easter Rite Catholics do.
While I understand the desire to have Catholic teens/young adults experience a rite of passage analogous to the Jewish Bar Mitzvah or the Mexican Quinceanera (which have also in many cases become more about the “trimmings and trappings” than the rite itself), I think it’s more important to get the graces of the sacrament working in their lives as soon as possible. You don’t have to have a degree in nutrition or have ever heard of vitamins and minerals, in order to benefit from eating temporal food, so why insist upon a certain level of knowledge in order to receive the spiritual “food” of the Eucharist and other sacraments?
Yes, post-Vat II much was made about not ‘routinely’ baptizing infants. If the parents were not practicing, the ‘pastoral’ advice was to hold off on Baptism. That may have come from the thinking that this would do one of two things: a) make the parents sit up, take notice and start practicing, or b) avoid ‘burdening’ the child – who might never be brought up as a Catholic – with ‘obligations’. Similar reasoning was employed as regards refusing a ‘Church wedding’ to those not practicing their Faith.
That was aside from the secular argument about letting the child grow up and ‘decide for himself/herself’ which always struck me a similar to sending a teenager out in a car without teaching him to drive as he ‘could figure it out for himself’.
But it always struck me that these considerations were purely human concerns. They left out the Divine element in the Sacraments, the effect of Sanctifying Grace on the recipient. That is short-changing the potential recipient and second-guessing God. It would be better to ‘err’ on the side of God than of men.
Thanks for this wonderful post. As for infant baptism, I’m all for it. I was baptized Russian Orthodox as an infant, but not raised in the faith except for nominal exposure to Episcopalian, and Congregational churches–liberal ones. By high school I was a Unitarian. By college, I was a pantheist and Gnostic, even dabbling in the occult. My early adult outward conversion to the Christian faith took place in a drug dealer’s den while on psychedelic drugs. I still wandered in Gnosticism for quite some time afterwards. Then I became a member of a seeker-friendly Baptist Church and had the worst aspects of my Gnosticism loved out of me. Now I am a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion and hoping soon to be a member of an Anglican Personal Ordinariate of the Catholic Church.
I look back at my life and see that I really did come alive when that Russian Orthodox priest immersed me three times. While outwardly I rebelled and rejected the Church, even held her in derision, inwardly I have always loved Jesus and been drawn to him without understanding why.
God is the author and finisher of our faith.
Very interesting discussion.
One thing that is often left out is the fact that baptism is not just a “sign of belonging” to the Church, but effects a real change in the soul of the recipient (indelible mark and all that). It’s an objective reality, which is why nurses in the delivery room in Catholic hospitals often used to baptize babies who were born there and looked as if they weren’t going to make it. In many cases, I doubt that the parents were Catholic, but the baby was still baptized and this changed his individual status in the universe, so to speak, and was an objective reality. Who knows how it may have flowered later?
I think the post VatII custom of tying baptism to the behavior of the parents was a reflection of a decline in faith in the objective nature of baptism or any of the sacraments, as well as the increasing “middle-classification” of the Catholic Church after Vatican II.