QUAERITUR: Can a traditional rite of baptism be in English?

baptismFrom a priest reader:

Please excuse my sending this request to you, but I have not been able to find an answer to my questions.

A couple have asked me to baptize their soon-to-be-born child, using the EF of Baptism.  I am happy to do so.  To wit, my questions;

1. May the rite be performed in English?
2. Do you know where booklets for the congregation may be purchased?

Yes, much of the older, traditional form of the Latin Church’s rite of baptism can be done in English, which is useful and disarming for some people in attendance.  However, when permission was given way back when for some vernacular languages to be used for baptism, certain parts had to be in Latin.  For example, the exorcisms and blessings of salt and water must be in Latin, the exorcism of the one to be baptized, the form of the sacrament, the anointing must be in Latin.

Books such as the Collectio Rituum have this laid out very clearly so that you know which parts can be English and which must be Latin, and also provide the English even of the part that must be in Latin.

There are booklets for the participants in the rite published by Angelus Press.

I think you will be edified by the older, traditional form of baptism which is richer in its symbols.  Thanks to the provisions of Summorum Pontificum 9  § 1 priests can also use the older Rituale Romanum for this foundational sacrament.  All priests should be familiar with the older book.  It is packed with useful things!

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  1. wolfeken says:

    For those curious, here is the rite in Latin followed by an English translation, straight from the Roman Ritual:


  2. moconnor says:

    Our son was baptized with the Traditional Rite. Much of it was indeed in English. A truly beautiful sacrament and ceremony.

  3. mark1970 says:

    In the UK, a similar book to the Collectio Rituum was published in 1961, its title in English was something like “Excerpts from the Roman Ritual”, although its official title was in Latin. It provided the Latin texts along with the officially-permitted translations for the parts that were allowed in English (Latin only for the parts that had to be in Latin). The preface to the book stated that a full translation had been sent to Rome for approval, but the relevant Congregation had limited the extent to which the vernacular could be used.

  4. RichR says:

    Does the Angelus Press booklet cue the priest when he must switch to the Latin? Is the English translation in the Angelus Press version fine for the priest to use during the Sacrament?

    I have wanted to try this at our mainstream parish, but I would want to make sure that it is easy for the priest to know what to do.

  5. Titus says:

    We recently had our daughter baptized in the EF—it’s a much more beautiful ritual than the OF (I was tempted to say “better,” but that makes it sound like one’s implicating efficacy). The main thing that is in English is the interrogatories: it’s hard to expect the godparents to answer the necessary questions in another language.

    St. John Cantius has it online in English.

    One thing that was slightly confusing for me beforehand was that the Roman Ritual itself does not list what parts can be said in English (I have the widely available reprint published by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius). So I couldn’t beforehand guarantee the decidedly non-Latin-speaking godparents that the interrogatories would, in fact, be in English!

  6. Titus says:

    Does the Angelus Press booklet cue the priest when he must switch to the Latin

    I don’t know about the Angelus Press booklet, but the Collectio Romanum is online, and it does (the parts that can be said in English are distinguishable by, well, being printed in English: tough luck on the rubrics, though, you’ll have to check the R.R. itself, cause they’re in Latin in the C.R.).

  7. kyle says:

    My youngest daughter was baptized in the Extaordinary Form last year and it is indeed a much richer more powerful rite. We used English for all of the questions and responses and latin for everything else.

  8. Bos Mutissimus says:

    Notwithstanding whatever other benefits there may be to an EF ritual in English, there is an anecdote about Msgr. Ronald Knox that is illustrative. When asked* by a couple if he would baptize their baby in the vernacular, he refused, offering in his defense, “The child does not speak English, but the Devil knows Latin.”

    *not sure when, but at least before 1957!

  9. jravago says:

    My son was just baptized under the EF of Baptism in English by Fr. Brendan at St. John Cantius. Although I would have preferred it in Latin, I think it was more meaningful for the 50 people that attended because they were able to follow the beauty of the Rite under the EF. I even created a missal with English and Latin. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to share it.

  10. lacrossecath says:

    Awesome!!! Our situation is that where we attend the TLM they cannot perform the one time sacraments. I think this is a great way to ease the uneasy into the liturgical tradition of the Church. We’ve got one coming up and because of this post, we’re going trad. And you know what they say, one you go Trad, you never go Bad! ;)

  11. kat says:

    Our priest normally reads the prayers required in Latin, in Latin; but then he re-reads them in English for all to understand what he just said. Where permitted and appropriate, he also explains WHY a certain action is performed.

  12. RichR says:


    You say “they cannot perform the one time sacraments”. Are you saying that they [the priests, I assume] cannot perform any baptisms at all? That would be very odd.

    Are you saying that they cannot use the EF for any one-time sacraments? If so, who has the legal authority to impose this restriction?

  13. lacrossecath says:

    Rich, it is a Shrine and as such they only say Mass and hear confessions. The intention is that it not be a “parish” but a place of pilgrimage. They certainly have the faculty to say the traditional sacraments, but this Shrine does not desire to get into the business of scheduling everybody’s sacraments of initiation or marriages, which actually is pretty understandable to me. We could approach our parish priest about traditional sacraments, but we haven’t done so yet because of the availability of this Shrine.

  14. Elizzabeth says:

    My husband and I have recently been asked to be Godparents at two EF baptisms. The first time, to our Godson, 6mo ago, we were rushing down in the car to the SE of England, from our holiday in NWales, and realised we hadn’t a clue what the responses would be, as I said to my husband, the last Old Rite Baptism I probably attended was my own as a baby! We were panicking, as we thought we’d have to make loads of responses in Latin, but as I read through the Rite, which was in the back of my Missal we realised that we didn’t have too much to say , a few ” et cum spiritu tuo s” and “Amens.” The worst part, we thought was that we’d have to say the creed out loud – we’d sung it before in a congregation, but being the only ones to say it was a bit daunting. Of course, when we got to the Church, everything that we had to do was done in English (hrmmph, after all that practising!). However, we were amazed that as Godparents, we got to hold the baby all the way through the ceremony (a real joy to us!) and it made us realise how important our role was, and our bond with that child is now so special. A huge difference from when I’d been asked to be Godmother to my nephews and nieces, and you stood back alongside the token Godfather who was a practical atheist, or from some Protestant denomination, and did not profess what the Catholic Church does!
    On the second occasion, where I’d influenced my friend into having her new baby “done” in the EF, having been so moved by our Godson’s baptism, she had had to ask the Priest in her parish if he minded doing it. His community had just recently started saying the EF as their community Mass, so it was all new to him, but he didn’t mind doing the OR Baptism. The one thing he asked her was “Do the Godparents know what they’re getting themselves into” I had to laugh, as we were the “Old hands” by then!! There’s definitely something much more special about it (in my humble opinion!).

  15. irishgirl says:

    I went to an EF baptism in 2008. The officiating cleric [actually a Bishop] did everything in Latin, but he gave a translation in English line-by-line before doing it in Latin. When he poured the water on the baby’s head, she screamed bloody murder!
    Before that, I think the only other baptism in the traditional rite was my own almost 57 years ago!
    ‘The child does not know English, but the Devil knows Latin.’-ha, I like that saying of Msgr. Ronnie Knox!

  16. Titus says:

    there is an anecdote about Msgr. Ronald Knox that is illustrative.

    Msgr. Knox gave a speech at Oxford (which can be found in his book In Soft Garments, available from Ignatius Press) in which he spoke of baptism and membership in the Church. He points out that, since there is only one baptism and one Church of Christ, a person is always “baptized Catholic.” Reasoning that a person could only leave the Church by an act of his own will, Knox concluded, “It is undeniable that there are no Protestants under the age of five.” (or words similar—I don’t have it in front of me).

  17. Supertradmum says:


    We had one of our children baptized in the Latin version of the Old Rite, with permission, in 1988. [Happily, with Summorum Pontificum in force, pastor’s themselves can use the older Ritual and give permission for it to be used by other priests at his parish. Summorum Pontificum was a wonderful gift for priests and laypeople.] It was fantastic and a witness to the side of the family that is non-Catholic. And, one of my theology teachers said the same as you have quoting Knox, that all Christians are baptized into the Catholic Church, as there is only one baptism. I know in the past this question has been addressed and argued. As long as the Baptism is Trinitarian, it is a valid one and therefore, Catholic. I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear on this. One of the reasons the heretics wanted adult Baptism, with the assent condition, was to move away from this idea of all being Baptized into the Catholic Church.

    I would like to see an English Traditional Baptism. The Old Rite has the exorcism with the blessed salt, which is all important. As you probably know, the Calvinists and Lutherans argued this point of the exorcism in Baptism.

  18. wolfeken says:

    Am I the only one here troubled by the constant question on how much of the traditional Latin Mass and other traditional Latin sacraments can be done in the vernacular?

  19. Precentrix says:


    There are a significant number of us who would prefer the traditional forms in the vernacular to the modern forms in Latin, were it not that the use of the vernacular encourages people not to say the black. For that matter, the Eastern Rites are quite happy to use the vernacular and there was permission for the Latin Rite to be used in Slavonic (the ‘Glagolitic Mass’) given several hundred years ago. Latin itself was introduced because it was the vernacular, though of course it now has the added ‘bonus’ of having become a liturgical language and its use worldwide makes things easier.

    Still… while there are moments when a liturgical language is probably the best idea, sometimes – especially where the faithful are used to lame-duck ICEL, a little compromise and the use of the vernacular, where permitted, might be in order? After all, with literacy on the decline, we can hardly expect everyone to be capable of following in a missal…


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