The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Abstaining from Baptism during Lent

Canisius | 10 March, 2006 17:52

The gospel passage in today’s Gueranger entry is another story about Jesus healing on the Sabbath and upsetting the Jewish authorities. A friend pointed out to me recently that this theme in the gospels is similar to a problem we have in our home diocese. The official position of the diocese is that baptisms, even infant baptisms, should not be administered during Lent. My wife and I had a baby during Lent once, and had a lot of trouble about it. We managed to get the kid baptized, but not at the parish where we were members and only after it was made clear to us that we are backward and spiritually blind people who just don’t understand. All this took place within a month or so of when my infant nephew died before he was baptized.

My friend just recently had a baby the weekend before Ash Wednesday; he managed to pull off a very quick baptism to avoid the Lenten problem, but again, only after it had been made clear to him that NORMAL people would just wait until Lent was over. When we compared notes, my friend pointed me to Luke 13:14:

"And the ruler of the synagogue, being moved with indignation because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, answered and said to the multitude, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the day of the sabbath."

Of course, Easter is the traditional time for the baptism of adults, and that’s proper: adults actually have grace operative in them even before they receive the sacrament, because they are able to know, and to choose. What gave rise to the opinion that even infants should wait was an understanding of the sacraments as less than what the Church says they are: the priest who finally agreed to let us use his church building to baptize our baby (although he didn’t perform the baptism himself) did not believe that baptism is important for infants. If they are born of Catholic parents, he said, then they are already Catholics.

The priest who performed that baptism for us called this attitude “liturgism”, the idea that liturgical appropriateness is the all-important thing. For example, priests who have this attitude will remove the holy water from the holy water fonts throughout Lent, either leaving the fonts dry or replacing the water with sand. I came across a letter once from the Vatican committee that oversees sacramental practice replying to a question about this practice. The letter stated that priests should not remove the holy water, because it might give the impression that we abstain from the sacraments during Lent.



Comment Icon Holy water

Louis | 10/03/2006, 22:24

Perhaps part of the reason some people believe that it is a good thing to not have holy water during lent is that it is the custom of the Church to remove the holy water from the fonts during the triduum.

Even here, though, the symbolism is not abstaining from sacramentals during lent, but it is rather in preparation of the Easter blessing of the water.

Comment Icon Triduum

Peter Canisius | 11/03/2006, 17:44

As a practical matter, if my baby were born within the Triduum (as my first child was), then I would certainly wait for Easter for the baptism. (As it turned out, they wouldn't let us baptize her on Easter because she didn't have a birth certificate--some kind of Austrian rule.)

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