Posts filed under: baptism

The amazing story that I used for my Baptism of the Lord homily today.

Do you believe that Protestants are Christians? That is to say, they are heaven-bound if they believe in Christ? - Anonymous

Sure they’re Christians!

All baptized persons belong to the Church of Jesus Christ. That is why also those Christians who find themselves separated from the full communion of the Catholic Church are rightly called Christians and are therefore our sisters and brothers. (YouCat 130)

But read that along with this

God bless you!

- Father Shane

Hi, Father Shane! I have a question about Mary and her marriage to Joseph. Was it a "real" marriage? I mean because marriage is a sacrament and the substance of the sacrament would be the couple uniting (wedding night), was Mary and Joseph's marriage not a sacrament? - Anonymous

An interesting question! Marriage between baptized persons is a sacrament, but neither Mary nor Joseph were baptized. (There’s a theological quibble there regarding whether Mary’s Immaculate Conception accomplished the same ends as baptism, but she certainly wasn’t baptized in the conventional sense before marrying Joseph. Some of the Church Fathers speak of marriage in the Old Testament as being a sort of proto-sacrament or quasi-sacrament, but in doing so they’re setting off the difference between Christian sacramentality and that which prepared the way for it.)

Actually, the indispensable element that “makes the marriage” is the exchange of consent between the spouses (see Catechism 1626). Consummation of the marriage is, in Canon Law (canon 1141), a requirement for indissolubility — “A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death” — but not a requirement for marriage itself.

Hope that helps! Don’t worry, Mary and Joseph are still the greatest example for married couples, even though their marriage was awfully special…

God bless you!

- Father Shane

To ask catechumens: ‘Do you wish to receive Baptism?’ means at the same time to ask them: ‘Do you wish to become holy?’

— Blessed John Paul II

Is it possible to remain a Catholic in good standing while maintaining a pro-choice stance? How does the Church handle those types of disagreements? Is "agree to disagree" allowed? Also, is it possible to become a nun and be pro-choice? Do personal views matter, or is just important that one stay true to their vow of obedience? - Anonymous

A perennial question!

What makes us Christians is Baptism. It’s the only way that we can draw a clear black/white line between who is or who isn’t Christian.

But things get blurrier after that. Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium talks in terms of communion: You’re in “communion” with the Church in differing degrees. If you read #14-15 of that document, you’ll see how the different intensities of communion are described for Catholics living in grace, Catholics in a state of grave sin, catechumens who desire to be united to the Church, Orthodox, Protestants, and even those who aren’t yet Christian.

Let’s look at the “Catholic” part:

The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion.

So if any of us choose to disagree about an element of our profession of faith, our communion with Christ’s Church is imperfect; it’s not what it should be, and it’s not what God desires for us. Ultimately, of course, it’s not really about our “opinions,” but about God’s will for us. Our attitude with our Heavenly Father has to be one of desiring ever more to fulfill his will, and seeking that our desires be aligned with his more than the other way around.

So the question about becoming a nun is a complicated one for you right now. If you don’t feel that you’re ready for that full communion yet, it’s probably better to take some time to reflect on it. Don’t assume that your views are immutable; we’re never that “calcified.” I’ve found, for example, that a lot of my views have changed during my own faith journey, hopefully for the best.

God bless you!

- Father Shane

Hi Father Shane, a problem I've been facing is identifying with the Catholic faith. I never felt my faith on an intimate level as I was growing up just going to mass. However, I recently went to a non-denominational church and I felt so much more alive in my faith. I was just wondering if it's okay to explore other faith traditions. As long as I'm living a life that mirrors Christ (being humble, compassionate, kind, loving, caring, etc.), shouldn't that be enough, regardless of denomination? - tuandat

Great question! I think it’s one that a lot of people have.

Part of the answer has to do with what the Catholic faith is and what a non-denominational community is. If the Catholic Church really is the group of believers that Jesus founded, and that has held to the same truths and the same doctrine for 2000 years (i.e., these people), and if non-denominational communities all split away from that at some point over some doctrinal dispute, well…

Part of the answer has to do with what the Catholic Mass is and what a mere worship service is. If it really is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of Calvary made present once again on the altar by the powers granted the priest through the laying on of hands down through the centuries, and if Jesus Christ really does come into my body and soul with all of his humanity and divinity there in the most wondrous touch of love, well…

Part of the answer has to do with what Jesus wants from you. Certainly he wants you to be humble and compassionate and kind and everything you mention, but Saint Paul’s letters challenge us to a very high level of virtue that goes beyond the “being nice to each other” that society recommends, and to live all of that consistently we need a great deal of grace, the kind that flows most assuredly and most abundantly from the Catholic sacraments. Sure, Jesus says that we should imitate him as meek and humble, but he also says things like “Do this in memory of me” and “What you did to one of these little ones you do to me” and “If you forgive others’ sins they are forgiven them.” So…

You need a personal relationship with Christ. You really, really do. It’s absolutely essential to living your faith as an adult. And sometimes we Catholics — especially priests — are really bad at helping people to do that. I don’t think I need to go into details; you could tell me plenty yourself! :-) But we’ve got graces up our sleeve that no non-denominational community can offer you. Because faith is more than feelings; it’s also standing or kneeling before Jesus in the Eucharist, hearing the words “The Body of Christ,” and saying “Amen. I believe.”

So yes, get yourself a personal relationship with Christ. But then supercharge it with sacramental grace. The Catholic kind.

God bless you in your faith journey!

- Father Shane

Joy’s Hope

Even though I’ve been ordained for almost 2 years now, I celebrated the sacrament of the anointing of the sick for the first time today. (My work means tons and tons of Masses and Confessions, but only parish priests get lots of baptisms, weddings and anointings.)

It was for a woman named Joy. Her whole family was there, and the doctors think she will probably pass away today. So say a little prayer for them today if you can, but boy is she lucky if so… It’s Mama Mary’s day of grace!

Can a lay person perform an exorcism in an emergency? I know the traditional Latin rite of exorcism calls for the priest to both offer prayers to God and to directly order the demon to depart. It makes sense for lay persons to be able to pray for God to expel the demon, but can they also order the demon out with any hope of being obeyed? It seems like any baptized person could do so if truly needed, but on the other hand they don't have the special blessings or authority of holy orders. Thanks! - Anonymous

Well, here’s the Catechism on that:

When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness. (#1673)

Only an ordained priest (with the bishop’s permission) can order out a demon “in the name of Jesus Christ,” since he alone acts in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ as Head of his Church.

Any baptized person, however, exercises their “common priesthood of the faithful" by prayer of intercession, and this of course applies to cases of exorcism (and other forms of demonic activity).

However, that’s not “exorcism” when it happens, which follows a specific rite and is of course ultimately overseen by the bishop… it’s called “prayer of liberation,” or sometimes “prayer of deliverance.” More details here.

Another part of the story, of course, is that most exorcist priests will take along a group of lay people to pray and intercede to God during an exorcism. It’s a “sacramental,” not a “sacrament,” meaning that it’s not “guaranteed” to be successfully performed and it even depends in some way also on our prayer, holiness, fidelity, etc.

God bless you!

- Father Shane

continued... Oh, and I don't believe any sin is greater or less than another. I think it should all be weighed equally. and to continue onto what I was saying in the last question, in the bible, it says something about being reborn again. so doesn't that mean that any sin is forgiveable? - alyssahoyttt

More good questions! 

Is any sin greater or lesser than another?

Well, is murdering your parents worse than cheating on a test at school? Instinctively we would say Yes, wouldn’t we? And yet we know that both of them are bad.

So we have to say something a little more complex than that. On the one hand, we would say that all sin offends God, and so it’s all extremely ugly and ungodly. But on the other hand, St. John tells us that types of sins are different:

If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly. (1 John 4:16-17)

Some sin is “deadly” and can’t simply be fixed by prayer. Catholics have a tradition of calling some sins “mortal” and other sins “venial.” Some sins really are grave enough to keep us from heaven; others merely wound that relationship we have with God. (Of course nobody wants that either!) 

Are all of those forgiveable?

Certainly! Jesus still called Judas his “friend” in the garden of Gethsemane even though he knew that he had just betrayed him, a sin so unspeakably awful that Jesus had said: “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24) And then Jesus forgave the “good” thief while he was dying, too; we can imagine that he hadn’t exactly just been cheating on his homework!

Jesus said something extremely important on the night of his resurrection to the Apostles:

Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. (John 20:22-23)

Why so important? Because it tells us that the Apostles had the power to forgive sins (a power that Catholics have always believed was passed down through the “laying on of hands” that we read that the Apostles did for the leaders of local churches, what we call bishops now), because it says that the Apostles’ delegated power is so great that even God will respect their decisions, because it doesn’t say that this “only” happens in Baptism, and because it doesn’t distinguish between types of sins. Jesus didn’t tell the Apostles that they could have jurisdiction over some of the lighter sins and that he would save some for himself. Nope… it’s all of them!

So yes we have to be reborn! The idea is developed most fully in John 3, the same conversation that I mentioned yesterday in your other question. It comes through Baptism, and Baptism forgives all our sins.

So I guess that all means that God is both a little more “normal” than we suspect (treating different sins differently) and yet also far far far far far more “generous” than we would suspect, in giving such sweeping powers to human beings!

God bless you.

- Father Shane

I once saw a person saying that virginity is our most precious gift from God, but also saying that we should stop being so focused on sex. What I've gleaned from looking through Catholic teachings and interpretations of teachings is that, we live in a sex-saturated culture and we should try our best to not let that affect our morals and actions. But, to focus on virginity and to glorify it.. isn't that the same? Isn't that focusing on sex? I keep reading about how we are more than just sex, but aren't these same people focusing on sex by glorifying virginity as the most precious thing? I always understood life as the most precious thing that God gave us - by allowing his only son to die for our sins, God allowed us to live. So isn't life our most precious gift? Isn't focusing on virginity so much the same as focusing on sex so much? - Anonymous

Yes, I agree entirely with you. Life — both the natural kind that comes at birth but especially the supernatural kind that comes at Baptism — is what lasts forever and what we can constantly give away.

Virginity, on the other hand, lasts for a while and is only given away once… it’s precious in that sense but isn’t the point of our lives.

Actually, chastity is something that’s far more important than virginity. It is the virtue by which we live out our sexuality in the way we’re supposed to (single, married, celibate, etc.); no matter what the state of your virginity, chastity is something you’re definitely called to live.

Some resources on chastity:

Yes, there is more to life than sex! Any priest can tell you that, and so can the saints in heaven, where they “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30).

God bless you!

- Father Shane

Is it a church-wide belief that the Catholic church is the ONLY church? - bornofthespoopy

If you’re baptized, you belong to the Church!

Wait, though… “Church” = “Catholic Church”? Here’s where it starts getting complicated. By “Church” we mean the Body of Christ, the Spouse of Christ, the People of God, etc., everything the Bible talks about. But then there’s the question of “communion” too. As members of Christ’s Body, are we in communion with each other? Unfortunately we’re human beings, and yes we can damage that communion. Hence the splits in Christianity.

So here’s how the YouCat deals with the question (bits and pieces lifted from #129-130):

Just as there is only one Christ, there can be only one Body of Christ, only one Bride of Christ, and therefore only one Church of Jesus Christ.

Just as the body has many members and is one, so too the one Church consists of and is made up of many particular churches (dioceses). Together they form the whole Christ.

All baptized persons belong to the Church of Jesus Christ. That is why also those Christians who find themselves separated from the full communion of the Catholic Church are rightly called Christians and are therefore our sisters and brothers.

Instances of separation from the one Church of Christ came about through falsification of Christ’s teaching, human failings, and a lack of willingness to be reconciled — usually on the part of representatives on both sides.

The Holy Spirit also works for the salvation of mankind in the churches and ecclesial communities that are separated from the Catholic Church. All of the gifts present there, for example, Sacred Scripture, sacraments, faith, hope, love, and other charisms, come originally from Christ.

Where the Spirit of Christ lives, there is an inner dynamic leading toward “reunion,” because what belongs together wants to grow together.

God bless you!

- Father Shane

Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:

"We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever.."

And concerning the broken bread:

"We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.."

But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”

But after you are filled, give thanks this way:

"We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Thou, Master almighty, didst create all things for Thy name’s sake; You gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us You didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy Servant. Before all things we thank Thee that You are mighty; to Thee be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou have prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen."

But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.

— The Didache (roughly 80 AD)

Mormon Convert: Thomas Smith


I thought this was a good story

Yes, it’s excellent!


Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. The Baptism of Christ. 1655.

Oil on canvas.

Gemäldegalerie. Berlin, Deutschland.

Is it possible for two non-Catholics to have their child baptised Catholic? - Anonymous

There’s an interesting question! The Church does require at least one of the godparents to be Catholic (the other is normally Catholic but must at least be a baptized Christian who isn’t a former Catholic).

Infant baptism only makes sense if the parents are planning to bring the child up in the faith; if the parents aren’t planning on or aren’t capable of bringing up the child in the Catholic faith, it wouldn’t really make sense to have the child baptized Catholic.

Obviously there are plenty of options here, but choosing the right one will take some reflection and maybe the counsel of a local priest.

God bless you!

- Father Shane

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