Why an “Octave” of Easter?

Baptistry and Font, Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome

Octagonal Baptistry with Baptismal Font in Center, Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome

Alleluia! Happy Easter! Today is Easter “Monday”, the second day in the “Octave” of Easter.

In our family, we struggle a little bit against the trend of front-loading the celebration of holidays that secular culture “shares” with Christianity.

Surely you’ve heard the historical myth that Easter and Christmas aren’t actually Christian, but rather pagan celebrations that were co-opted by the early Church. Insert Yada-yadda and Something-something about the Church consolidating power and misleading the ignorant tribals of pre-Enlightenment Europe.

Without explicitly saying so, the Something-something crowdset aims to re-paganize the holidays, so that if they were ever not Christian, they may be so once again. The result is empty: today’s age celebrates buying and consumption while past gnosis plumbed to the shallow depths of the day’s length or season’s climate.

The Church reminds that what God desires from us is our free choice to follow and serve Him. We are all the unworthy servants of Luke’s gospel — doing what we are obliged to do does not carry the expectation of favor from God. (17:10). We can’t repay God anything. It’s not for Him that Jesus hangs upon the wood of the cross. Thank goodness, we can take joy in this fact!

When we truly value a relationship, we take action. God values the relationship — He gave His only begotten Son. We show how much we truly value a relationship according to what we will give up for it. On Good Friday, our brother suffers. How do we show God how much we value His friendship and love?

The Christian who pretends that the journey to Heaven is possible without some measure of sacrifice seeks not a literal baptism by sprinkling, but a figurative one: “Jesus, make me damp, make me a little bit wet, let me dip my toe! Give me just one iota of salvation! But do not immerse me in the waters of your mercy! Do not drown me in faith! Do not drench me in the graces pouring from your side!” If someone knows true joy, why would they ask for just a little bit of it?

The point of Lent cannot be reduced to causing ourselves pain so that it feels good when we stop. Any sacrifice that we offer for the good of relationship with Jesus isn’t for Him, but rather, for us. We benefit not from the pain, but from the discovery that the thing being sacrificed has no real value compared to Jesus. It is this discovery that makes the Christian free.

The spiritual fruits of Easter — like Christmas — come through the removal of obstacles that block pathways to deep Mystery. There is no limit to how far God will draw us up into meditation upon the Mysteries of Incarnation and Resurrection, but ourselves.

Today we can take joy that Easter has only begun. The Resurrection is the “Eighth Day” — the day after creation, the beginning of the new creation. Baptism is directly tied to the new life of Easter as the Eighth Day. Baptistries or baptismal fonts are frequently found to be octagonal in form, symbolizing that the New Creation comes to us through Jesus, to whom we respond in baptism.

Easter is the bridge between the old creation and new, given by God for us! Alleluia! 

Advertisements

It’s Possible Pope Francis agrees: Children Don’t Belong in Cry Rooms, and Neither do You

[NOTE OF CLARIFICATION: While the Holy Father has expressed a fairly clear opinion regarding nursing in church, he has not opined (so far as I know) on the appropriate use of a cry room. He’s only stated that “the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of the infants who will make a noise.”]

One of the most commented posts on this blog was from last September entitled, “Children don’t Belong in a Cry Room, and Neither do You,” in which I stated:

Children belong at Mass. Period. Efforts to remove children for “special liturgies,” “CCD”, “religious ed”, “nursery care” — or whatever else — is not in keeping with the traditions of the Church or its precepts. Loud children and their parents (whose sin is that they have dutifully brought their kids to Mass) should not be relegated to segregated, soundproofed rooms for the convenience and comfort of people who complain about the noise or distraction at the expense of the good of the whole community.

**********

Children have always been, and should always be present at liturgical celebrations. Their presence, especially in overwhelming numbers, is a sign of the great blessings showered by God upon His people. The most joy-filled, spiritually enriching celebrations of the Eucharist that you can find often involve the prominent presence and participation of young people and children. It does not matter if you attend the Mass in the Novus Ordo or the Extraordinary Form, when young people are present, Jesus is happy, because the growth and life of the Church is something that ensures a healthy, dynamic and living faith for future generations.

When our Holy Father told our young people at World Youth Day to go make some noise, he did not also say, “but only in the cry room.”

In response to one commenter who accused me of manipulation, deception and conflation of the topic, I wrote: “Ok, it’s a conflation. Let’s ask Pope Francis where babies belong.”

francisbaptNow we’re closer to knowing, because this past Sunday, in connection with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Pope Francis repeated the tradition of baptizing babies in the Sistine Chapel. The Pope invited 32 babies to be baptized in one of the holiest places in all of Christendom, in the very room (frescoed by Renaissance master Michaelangelo) where the Pope himself was elected.

Did Pope Francis suggest that babies who were loud or disruptive should be removed to the Sistine Chapel Cry Room? [Hint: there isn’t one.]

No!

Instead, he invited mothers to nurse their babies. In the Sistine Chapel! The Pope told mothers to have “no qualms about breast-feeding them there.” (These words in quotes are not attributed to Pope Francis, but the writer of the linked article). In his 300-word homily, the Holy Father was quoted: “Today the choir will sing but the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of the infants who will make a noise. Some will cry because they are not comfortable or because they are hungry,” he said. “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important people here…

According to the Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff, Servant of the Servants of God, His Holiness Pope Francis, the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of infants who make noise. Of course, this should not be a surprise, in light of Our Lord’s own words, to “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them.” 

Case closed, says Quartermaster (and those who agree). Children don’t belong in Cry Rooms, and neither do you!

Pastors, in light of the Holy Father’s words, perhaps if you have a Cry Room but not an Adoration Chapel, you should make the change to something more… Catholic!

[RELATED FOLLOWUP POST: For Anyone who objects to Nursing Mothers in Church…]

WANTED: Faithful Catholic Godparents, and Six Ways to Deal with Unfaithful Ones

From a reader:

I’d like to know your opinion on a matter troubling my husband and me. Years ago, we asked a close friend to be a godparent of our child. At the time, he was a faithful practicing Catholic, attending mass regularly. Since that time, he has “relaxed” in his faith. He still says he’s Catholic, but rarely attends mass and supports things not inline with Church teachings such as same-sex marriage. How do I handle this situation when my child looks up to and admires his Godparent?

By being baptized, we communicate to God our first “yes” to a relationship with Him, which is in response to His great communication of love and desire for relationship with us. Godparents speak the “yes” by proxy for the godchild and as witnesses to the joy of a relationship with God.

For faithful Catholic parents, choosing suitable godparents is often a difficult decision. And there are many competing factors that play into the decision: the desire to forge family bonds or deepen friendships; wishing to avoid hurt feelings for someone who may expect to be asked, or may feel it’s their turn to be a godparent; trying to satisfy the opinions of others.

However, ultimately these factors should not be what determines who we choose as a godparent, because the decision should fundamentally be about whether the person can actually perform the job, which requires (at a minimum) a baptized Catholic adult who is actively practicing the faith. A godparent is supposed to pray for and support by word and example the Catholic formation of his or her godchild.

DSC_0407

The Rituale Romanum states that it is the duty of godparents “…by reason of their position ever to regard their godchild as a personal charge, and in all that pertains to his Christian upbringing to watch over him faithfully, so that in his whole life he may prove herself true to the promises which they once solemnly spoke for him.” (Holy Baptism – General Rules, para. 38).

In the Rite of Baptism itself, godparents and parents who indicate that they are prepared to accept responsibility for the religious upbringing of a child are asked to “…renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized.”

That means that when your child goes to her godparent and asks if she should go to mass, he is supposed to say, “Yes”, and also put this into practice by being a good example of a Catholic who regularly attends mass.

It also means that when your child goes to her godparent and asks what he thinks about abortion, or sex outside of marriage, or some other moral issue, the godparent is supposed to support (in words and deeds) the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Parents (and by extension, the godchild) have the right to expect these things from the godparent, who should not accept the esteem and title of being a godparent if he is unprepared to carry out the obligations associated with the role.

Children are very observant, and the fact that a godparent (who the child understands the parents have chosen for the child) does not respect the teachings of the Church or follow her precepts can lead to questions and challenges that can undermine spiritual formation.

Not that this is an excuse, but it may not have even occurred to the godparent that long ago he took a vow to pray for and spiritually support the Catholic formation of his godchild. Vows are made to be broken (or forgotten), so to speak. I suppose that if your relationship permits it, you could inquire if he forgot the solemn promises he made.

If you’re wondering, I don’t think there is any way to “remove” a godparent. According to the Rituale Romanum (Id., para. 37), only the minister and the godparent contract a spiritual relationship from baptism with the one baptized. If a spiritual relationship is contracted, it does not seem likely that it could be removed because of poor-quality godparenting. I am not aware of any kind of “godparent annulment” procedure in the Church, however, I am not a canonist and could be wrong on this point.

That said, in light of the spiritual relationship that has already been contracted, and in light of the teaching of the Church that the parents are the primary teachers of the Faith to their children, I suggest the following:

1. Pray for your child’s godparent. Ask God to use the special spiritual relationship between the godparent and your child to work in both directions; ask God to strengthen the godparent through the spiritual graces that you request for them both.

2. When your child is old enough to understand, and begins asking questions like, “Why doesn’t so-and-so go to mass?” encourage your child to also pray for her godparent. Remind your child that God wants us all to pray for each other and help each other to be better Catholics.

3. Do not defer to the godparent. As long as you are aware of a situation in which the godparent is manifesting something that is contrary to the teachings of the Church, protect your child. Do not permit statements of dissent or actions that your child observes to go unanswered. You need not go into any detail in explaining the situation to your child, but do not deny that something is amiss in the life of your child’s godparent. In confession one time, a beloved priest pointed out that we’re all healing at different rates, which is the approach I’d take in explaining things to one of my kids.

4. Invite the child to learn more about her patron saint, or if she does not yet have one, invite her to read about a few different saints and pick one. Remind your child that we can cultivate strong relationships with the saints, and ask them to pray for us and even spiritually adopt us in the same way that a godparent does.

5. Don’t stop inviting the godparent to be a part of the life of your child (as long as there are no indications that the child might be harmed from this), and don’t stop warmly welcoming him to return to the practice of the faith. Ask him to pray for your child, especially around the time of the first reception of the sacraments and throughout religious education. Reiterate to the godparent his important place and role in the life of your child.

6. Be as charitable as you possibly can. Your feelings matter the least. You might feel disappointed, trespassed, hurt, angry, or even proud. Ask God to remove these feelings. Concentrate on what’s best for the other person: in this case, your first priority is your child, and your secondary priority is the good of the godparent.

More than anything else, give thanks to God for the great gift of Baptism, through which His mercy is poured out for us all. By Baptism we are saved! And, just as the validity of the Eucharist is not diminished if the priest who consecrates is living in mortal sin, so too is Baptism always valid even if the godparents (or parents) are really unsuitable in their role. It is Christ who saves, and Christ who is our ultimate model for how to live.

[Get Updates on Facebook from Quartermaster of the Barque]