ASK FATHER: Traditional “Supplied rites” after emergency or modern rite baptism

From a reader on Twitter…


How can you get the traditional rites “supplied”?

The idea is this.  If someone needed to be baptized in the case of danger of death, and the minimal but valid form was used with the pouring of water – think: infant dying in a hospital and a nurse baptizes quickly – then it would be good to have the rites that were not used in the otherwise valid baptism provided at another time, ideally as soon as possible.  Those rites, in the traditional form, included exorcisms and so forth.

Let’s get something straight.   We must be wary wary wary of sliding into the trap of sacramental minimalism, the dreadful notion that so long as the sacrament was valid, then nothing else really matters.   That’s rubbish, of course.

Our rites were handed down to us for reason.  Much of what we do is of Apostolic origin, or is very ancient.  I liken each of our rites to a precious jewel in a beautiful setting.

nce upon a time upon a time, our forebears received the jewel from Christ and the Apostles and their successors and then provided a setting that would highlight its beauty, emphasize its strong points.  Our forebears polished and beautified and improved the setting as their understanding of the precious beauty of the gift deepened.

Their work of polishing and improving was slow and patient, never hasty, flowing from profound reflection in dialogue with the times changing around them.

Then it was time to pass that jewel in its setting, prepared with so much respect and awe and love, to their heirs.   In turn, their heirs received their patrimony with respect and awe.  In turn, they spotted small things that could be done to make the setting more decorous, more fitting, more apt to communicate the beauty of the jewel.

Then – bammo – a group came along and started to pry things off and rearrange everything and, without so much as a by your leave, make a new setting that hearkened less to the attitude of our forebears in the Faith and more to the attitude of the world… not to mention the flesh and the devil.

By an amazing set of circumstances however, the jewel’s integrity was protected and the knowledge of the former setting remained.

In an amazing gift inherent in the Christ-given, therefore a divinely imbued reality, even while the jewel could be admired in, say, the Museum of Modern Art, it could also be admired in its original-yet-organically developed setting at the Metropolitan.  [Yes, yes, junior … I know the stupid provocation made by libs that trads see the Church as a museum…. yawwwwwn.  Just listen.This is a little bed-time story to get my point across.]

Our rites were lovingly developed and polished and cared for to emphasize what, over many centuries, our forebears learned and understood in them.  Then, with great love they handed them down to us.  Good night.

No, we are NOT liturgical and sacramental minimalists.   WE ARE OUR RITES!  They shape us.  They explain us.   They express us.  Change them and we change.   When we change them, it’s only in a way that is deeply considered, very slow, and organically in harmony with what we’ve received.

Hence, there are many elementS in the traditional rite of baptism which, while not necessary for validity, are nevertheless rich with meaning and which enrich us because WE ARE OUR RITES.

How can you get the traditional rites “supplied”?   Go to a priest or bishop who is likely to know something about the traditional rites and ask him about them, and whether you or someone in your care is a good candidate for them.  Sorry, I have no idea where you are, so I can’t recommend anyone.  And, YES, this is permitted.   There are specific rituals laid out in liturgical books for how the priest is to do this.

It is, without question permitted for those who were baptized in an emergency situation with the minimal form.   Remember: there is no distinction between the traditional minimal form of baptism and the modern form of baptism.  It is the same.   There is a trinitarian form while water is delivered by pouring, sprinkling, immersing, on the skin of the head or, if absolutely necessary and the head can’t be reached, another part of the body.

Say someone is baptized in a minimal way, because of an emergency.   That person would be a great candidate for the rest of the traditional being supplied.

Say someone is baptized with the post-Conciliar, modern rite.  It wasn’t an emergency or minimalist.  It was the whole form, properly done.   I don’t think this is a good candidate for supplied ceremonies.

The Catholic who is discovering his patrimony will know that the modern form chopped out a lot of things that were done in the traditional form.   As a matter of fact, on realizing that they didn’t get all that they might have in the traditional form, they start to feel a little cheated, like they received something second best.    At this point, although we are not minimalists, we have to stress that, “Yes, you are truly baptized!  That sacrament is valid and operative in you as it is valid and operative in those who received the older rites!”

Look at this this way.

The modern form of ordination to Holy Priesthood doesn’t, in my opinion, hold a candle to the rich significance of the traditional form.   I really wish that I could have been ordained in the traditional form.   But I am not, therefore, going to go to some bishop and say, “Please supply the parts of my ordination that I didn’t get to have in the modern rite?”   Nope.  Those who are being ordained these days in the traditional form are not more a priest than I or my brethren ordained in the modern rite.   On a personal note, I have also the honor to say that I was ordained by the Roman Pontiff and a saint, John Paul II.  So there!  Also, I was ordained as a deacon and as a priest – both ordinations – entirely in Latin, though in the modern form as revised by John Paul II.  So, I really wish that John Paul had ordained me with the traditional rite.  But I am not less a priest because he used the modern form and I am not more a priest because the Pope ordained me.  (By tradition I get to wear something distinctive because the Pope ordained me, but that’s a far less important issue.)

Allow me to ramble, again, but to the point.

Paul VI revised the rites of ordination.  It was … not good.  For example, the rites omitted to describe what the ordinands were signing on to: celebration of the Eucharist and absolution of sins.   But that’s what priests are for!   Hence, smart people noticed the omission and started to ask if the rites were valid, because rites always describe what they are conferring.   John Paul II in 1990 put back into the ordination rite for priests explicit questions to the men to be ordained about their intention to do as the Church wants them to do, namely, confect the Eucharist and forgive sins.   So, in an analogy with baptism, a bishop who knew his stuff and men who knew their stuff could probably be validly ordained merely by the laying on of hands and then the consecratory ordination prayer with the valid form, there’s a lot missing and that stuff that’s missing is really important: that stuff revels what the Church intends to do in that man’s soul for the good of his soul and for the Church.  The priest’s hands were/are anointed with chrism.  The priest received a chalice with wine and a paten with a host.  If he didn’t receive those things, he would still be a priest.  But… whew… what a deficit.

The same goes for the use of a minimum form of baptism or the whole rite of baptism.   And, I think, the use of the traditional form or the modern form.

And, just to be clear, the full rites are not just for the benefit of the one receiving the sacraments but also for the benefit of those who are witnessing their administration.  They learn and benefit from the rites because WE ARE OUR RITES.

It seems to me that those who were validly baptized in the full modern ritual are not candidates for the supplied rites from the traditional form.  They can, however, be the recipients of blessings by the priest.   If they are concerned about being under the domination of the prince of the this world because they didn’t receive the pre-baptismal exorcisms, then they can ask for blessings and pray approved prayers their own.  And, remember, they can receive the EUCHARIST and the SACRAMENT OF PENANCE, which are mightier than the “sacramentals” worked in the first stages of the baptismal rites.

This leaves open the question of converts to Holy Church who were validly baptized in their protestant sects.   Should they, on being admitted to the Church, right away be supplied with the traditional elements that they didn’t get before, outside the Church?

I, for example, was baptized in the Lutheran church of my parents.  It wasn’t an emergency.  They would have followed the whole rite as it was at the time.   Should I seek the supplied ceremonies?

Should it be it the practice now to supply ceremonies using the traditional rite for Protestant coverts to Holy Mother Church?   That wasn’t the practice back in the day.  It isn’t the practice how.   Could it be done?  I think I’ll let that go for now, since this is getting long and I am typing it in an airport before my delayed flight.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Charles Sercer says:

    My understanding is basically the same as yours. I was baptized in the modern rite and not under extreme circumstances, and thus am not a candidate for receiving supplied rites.

    It is an interesting thing to ponder, though, whether those validly baptized in Protestant religions should receive the supplied rites. I had never thought about it in the way you briefly said at the end – namely, that in even in past times it was not deemed necessary for that to happen for such converts to the Catholic faith. Until reading that it seemed like a no-brainer to have Protestant converts receive the supplied rites. While it still seems like a good idea, perhaps it is good to observe what our forefathers in faith observed, for all those we are certain received a valid baptism under normal circumstances.

  2. Gab says:

    Of course you are correct, Father. Both forms are valid, however there is only one exorcism in the new rite and it only talks about “your only Son… to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, rescue man from the kingdom of darkness”. But there is no direct talking to the devil to be gone, it is just talking about Jesus and his casting out Satan. There are three exorcisms in the Traditional Rite, a lot more blessings, a lot more prayers that are excluded from the new rite. And of course, the Traditional Rite took much longer and I suspect that’s the main reason the new rite was formulated – to save time.

    [It doesn’t take that long if you have everything set up ahead of time and you know what you are doing.]

  3. ProfKwasniewski says:

    Thank you, Father. A wonderfully balanced, perceptive, and nourishing post! (For something written at an airport, it must set a new record for perspicuity and depth.)

    I especially like how you have brought in both sides: that the new rites are sorely deficient, because they do not give the jewel its proper setting; and that the new rites are still valid, which means they effect what they signify, and bring about our sanctification. We should fight to recover the old rites, while not denying the salvific efficacy of the new; we should point to the strengths of the former and the weaknesses of the latter, while not becoming scrupulous about what we might have missed here and there, or how we could supply it years later.

    The ordination parallel seems to me exactly right.

    For readers interested in reading more, in this article I gathered the opinions of four traditional priests who all concur with what Fr. Z is arguing here:

    [Great link and very helpful. I note that you brought in the articles by St. Thomas Aquinas on the rites that accompany baptism, and the great importance the Angelic Doctor gives to them. The fact that he explains them is telling. The issue of sacramental and ceremonial minimalism is something that we have to make a concerted – and I do mean “in concert” – to correct. That minimalist view led in part to the experimentation that was once and still is rife, the false “right” some priests claim to make their own changes, etc. Talk about the worst kind of “clericalism”! “I am a priest! Therefore I get to change on my own authority (which ironically I don’t have) to make changes to what the Church has figured out we should do.” Sweet Jesus, save us from these guys! Think of the tremendous damage they have done to souls through the erosion of their Catholic identity… because we are, after all, our rites. I’ve been getting text messages from a priest who has newly been assigned as pastor of a new parish which has been in the clutches of a lib for some 25 years. “Susan(s) from the parish council” are giving him real hell. They want, I am not making this up, puppet sermons, like they’ve “always had”. The one FemiNazi yells inclusive language responses to prayers during Mass. What a mess the last generation has left their successors.]

  4. Philmont237 says:

    I asked a local priest about this. I’ve pasted his reply below. I was disappointed because I was baptized Episcopalian.

    “Not really. You might be thinking of the various exorcisms contained in the old rite. They are all excluded when the ceremonies are supplied to an adult. The exorcisms are for someone who is outside God’s Kingdom. Thus they do not apply to someone that is already baptized.”

    [Hmmm… not quite, but close.]

  5. TonyO says:

    Whew, that’s a lot to take in. Thanks, Fr. Z, for sensible and thoughtful teaching. Thanks, especially, for your carefully indicating where you draw your own (very sensible) application of the principles, instead of just holding forth as if your conclusions were de fide or something. That’s good teaching pedagogy, and I appreciate it!

    If I may add a note: “We are our rites” aligns with a broader, more general truth: custom holds obligations for us. That is to say, it isn’t just when LAW demands we do something that we are obliged to do it, it is also true when custom dictates acting a certain way. People who go around disrupting social norms because “there’s no law about this” are flouting this general moral principle. Customs bind too. They might not bind in exactly the same way that law does, but they still bind us.

    Also ignored in this age of individualism is the way in which custom supports and promotes virtues. Most areas of daily life involve a vast series of customary usages that fit together because the parts that don’t fit together have had the rough edges sanded off, but we can see the process itself if we are careful. (Just as an example: the size and shape of butter dishes and the size and shape of sticks of butter you get from the grocery store FIT each other, even though each of them is a purely arbitrary result of a long history of making butter. However, the shape of butter sticks in the East is long and narrow, and the shape of butter sticks in Calif. is shorter and wider – but the butter dishes in CA are (mostly) long enough to take either size. Here the rough edges are still in process of being sorted out.) The point is that when you have a long-standing practice, there may be dozens or even hundreds of OTHER practices that FIT with it like hand in glove, and many of those may be customs by which we protect ourselves and our virtues. You can’t just decide, willy nilly, that you can just ignore a custom merely because “there’s no law about it” and not run the risk of upsetting various virtues along the way. E.G. there is no fundamental principle about how long a woman’s skirt must be in order to retain modesty – it can vary from culture to culture. But within a given cultural context a fashion designer who decides to sell skirts that are 5 inches shorter than the norm is damaging the virtue of modesty.

    Well, our rites are not immune to this same principle. We are our rites because they help form us and mold us and keep us headed in a good direction. Alter them without due reason, and you damage the virtues they were supporting.

  6. TxLurker says:

    “There is a trinitarian form while water is delivered by pouring, sprinkling, immersing, on the skin of the head or, if absolutely necessary and the head can’t be reached, another part of the body.”

    Father, I know you have addressed the situation of the water flowing only over the hair of the head before and had said that was valid per the CDF. Is that no longer the case?
    Asking because it looks like you added the “skin” part pretty prominantly. I can honestly say about half the adult baptisms I’ve seen featured water flowing on the hair only (and not in ultra-modernist parishes either), so I just want to make sure for my own peace of mind.

  7. TxLurker:

    I’ve written more in depth about this HERE.

    I wrote inter alia:

    If the water does not touch the head, at least the hair of the head, the baptism is invalid.

    However, it is possible to find in some manuals – and we like manual – that if water touches, say, only the shoulder, the baptism could be valid. The far away from the head, the more doubtful. In all those cases where the water touched something other than the head, there should be a conditional baptism. Consider: in an emergency where someone is stuck in a hole and you can only reach a leg, and water is poured on the leg, that baptism is doubtful and should be repeated conditionally.

    Also this HERE

Comments are closed.