Dave “Not the KFC one” VanVickle and I answer your questions about our series on faith and the sacraments.
Snippet from the Show
As Catholics, we are called to both uphold the dignity of the sacraments and to evangelize all souls who to come us.
Today we answer your questions about The Reciprocity between Faith and Sacraments
56. [Concept of Sacrament]. The Triune God, who creates in order to transmit his gifts and who created human persons in order to call them individually and communally to communion with him, enters into relationship with them in a mediated way, through creation and history, through signs, as we have seen. Within these signs, the Christian sacraments occupy a very prominent place, for they are those signs to which God has linked the transmission of his grace in a sure and objective way. In fact, the sacraments of the New Law are effective signs which transmit grace. As we have already said, this does not mean that the sacraments are the only means by which God transmits his grace; it does mean that they hold a privileged position, marked by certainty and ecclesiality. Devotion and personal piety can unfold through different practices: such as different forms of prayer linked to Sacred Scripture, such as lectio or contemplation of the mysteries of Christ’s life; contemplation of God’s works in creation and history; and the various sacramentals (cf. §40), etc.
d) Faith and Baptism of Children
91. The baptism of infants has been attested since ancient times. It is justified in the desire of parents that their children participate in sacramental grace, be incorporated into Christ and the Church, become members of the community of God’s children as they are of the family, for baptism is an effective means of salvation, forgiving sins, beginning with original sin, and transmitting grace. The child does not knowingly sign his or her membership in his or her natural family, nor is he or she proud of it, as is often the case with many initiation rites, such as circumcision in the Jewish faith. If socialization follows its ordinary course, it will do so as a young and adult, with gratitude. With the baptism of infants, it is emphasized that the faith in which we are baptized is the ecclesial faith, that our growth in faith takes place thanks to the insertion in the community “we.” The celebration confirms it solemnly after the profession of faith: “This is our faith; this is the faith of the Church that we are proud to profess.” On this occasion, the parents act as representatives of the Church, which welcomes these children into its bosom. For this reason, the baptism of children is justified from the responsibility of educating in the faith that the parents and godparents contract, parallel to the responsibility of educating them in the rest of the spheres of life.
e) Pastoral Proposal: Faith for the Baptism of Children
92. Many families live the faith and pass it on to their children, both explicitly and implicitly, whom they educate in the faith having baptized them shortly after being born, following an ancestral Christian custom. However, there are a number of problems. In some places, the number of baptisms decreases drastically. In countries with a Christian tradition, it is not unusual for children preparing for first communion to discover at that time that they are not baptized. Very often some parents request baptism for their children by social convention or family pressure, without participating in the life of the Church and with serious doubts about the intention and ability to provide a future education in the faith of their children.
93. [Lights from the Tradition]. With great continuity, the Church has defended the legitimacy of infant baptism, in spite of the criticisms that this practice has received since ancient times. In very early times, we are told of baptisms of entire families (cf. Acts 16:15, 33). The tradition of infant baptism is very old. It is already witnessed by the Apostolic Tradition. A synod of Carthage, from the year 252, defends it. Tertullian’s well-known challenge to the baptism of infants only makes sense if it was a widespread custom. This practice has always been accompanied by a significant ecclesial figure close to the children (parents, godparents), who committed themselves to provide education in the faith along with the ordinary education of the children. Moreover, to the extent that infant baptism became the most regular practice, the need for a post-baptismal catechesis to instruct the baptized in the faith, and thus contribute to avoiding as far as possible their total estrangement or distancing from the faith, was accentuated. Without this representative figure of the ecclesial faith, baptism, a sacrament of faith with a marked dialogical nature, would lack one of its essential components.
94. [Pastoral Proposal]. In the case of children, there must be a hope based on education in the faith, thanks to the faith of the adults who take responsibility. Without any hope in a future education in the faith, the minimum conditions for a meaningful reception of baptism are not met.
Dialogue Between Pastors and Families With Little Faith or Non-Christian Families
30. It sometimes happens that pastors are approached by parents who have little faith and practice their religion only occasionally, or even by non-Christian parents who request Baptism for their children for reasons that deserve consideration.
In this case the pastor will endeavor by means of a clear-sighted and understanding dialogue to arouse the parents’ interest in the sacrament they are requesting and make them aware of the responsibility that they are assuming.
In fact the Church can only accede to the desire of these parents if they give an assurance that, once the child is baptized, it will be given the benefit of the Christian upbringing required by the sacrament. The Church must have a well-founded hope that the Baptism will bear fruit.
If the assurances given—for example, the choice of godparents who will take sincere care of the child, or the support of the community of the faithful—are sufficient, the priest cannot refuse to celebrate the sacrament without delay, as in the case of children of Christian families. If on the other hand they are insufficient, it will be prudent to delay Baptism. However the pastors should keep in contact with the parents so as to secure, if possible, the conditions required on their part for the celebration of the sacrament. If even this solution fails, it can be suggested, as a last recourse, that the child be enrolled in a catechumenate to be given when the child reaches school age.
31. These rules have already been made, and are already in force, but they require some clarifications.
In the first place it must be clear that the refusal of Baptism is not a means of exercising pressure. Nor can one speak of refusal, still less of discrimination, but rather of educational delay, according to individual cases, aimed at helping the family to grow in faith or to become more aware of its responsibilities.
With regard to the assurances, any pledge giving a well-founded hope for the Christian upbringing of the children deserves to be considered as sufficient.
Enrollment for a future catechumenate should not be accompanied by a specially created rite which would easily be taken as an equivalent of the sacrament itself. It should also be clear that this enrollment is not admittance to the catechumenate and that the infants cannot be considered catechumenates with all the prerogatives attached to being such. They must be presented later on for a catechumenate suited to their age. In this regard, it must be stated clearly that the existence in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults of a Rite of Initiation for Children of Catechetical Age in no way means that the Church considers it preferable or normal to delay Baptism until that age.
Finally, in areas where families of little faith or non-Christian families make up the majority, so as to justify the local setting up by the Bishops’ Conference of a joint pastoral plan which provides for postponing Baptism beyond the time fixed by the general law, Christian families living in these areas retain the full right to have their children baptized earlier. The sacrament is therefore to be administered in accordance with the Church’s will and as the faith and generosity of these families deserve.
Marriage and a Lack of Faith
168. [Necessity of Intention]. As we have said (§§ 67-69), the traditional doctrine of the sacraments includes the conviction that the sacrament requires at least the intention to do what the Church does: “All these sacraments are realized by three elements: of things, as matter; of words, as form; and of the person of the minister who confers the sacrament with the intention of doing what the Church does (cum intentione faciendi quod facit Ecclesia). If one of them is missing, the sacrament is not performed.” According to the common opinion of Latin theology, the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the spouses, who reciprocally donate their marriage. In the case of sacramental marriage, at least the intention to perform a natural marriage is required. Now, natural marriage, as the Church understands it, includes as essential properties indissolubility, fidelity and ordering to the good of the spouses, and the good of the offspring. Therefore, if the intention to enter into marriage does not include these properties, at least implicitly, there is a serious lack of intention, capable of calling into question the very existence of natural marriage, which is the necessary basis for sacramental marriage.
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Meet Your Hosts
Michael “Gomer” Gormley
Michael spent 17 years in full-time parish ministry and is now the Mission Evangelist for That Man Is You!, a men’s apostolate for Paradisus Dei. Michael is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and parish missions all over the US and Canada.
He is the founder and creative director of LayEvangelist.com, and hosts two popular Catholic podcasts: Catching Foxes and Every Knee Shall Bow.
He is married to his college sweetheart, Shannon, and has four beautiful and hilarious children: Kateri, Cecilia, Noah, and Thomas.
Dave VanVickle fell in love with the Lord at the age of fourteen and has since dedicated his life to bringing others into a radical relationship with Christ.
He is a speaker and retreat leader who focuses on proclaiming the universal call to holiness, authentic Catholic spirituality, spiritual warfare and deliverance. Additionally, Dave has over ten years of experience assisting Priests with their ministries of exorcism and deliverance.
Dave married his late wife Amber in 2010. He now resides in Pittsburgh with his five children: Sam, Max, Judah, Josie and Louisa.