The Rituale Romanum Rite for the baptism of children
(Editor’s Note: Photos are of the recent baptism of Gregory Pascal Marie Reilly by Fr Terence Mary Naughtin, OFM Conv. at Maternal Heart of Mary Church, the FSSP Parish in Sydney Australia. Photographer: Tom Gallant)
Many young Catholic parents are discovering that they can have their baby baptized in the ringing phrases of the Rite of Baptism as it was given for more than 1500 years in the Church. But what’s that like?
Chris Tatum, 34, is a married father of two who says he’s been Catholic ‘since I was three weeks old.’ Recently, the Nashville, Tennessee-based business analyst was invited to witness the baptism of a friend’s newborn baby boy – in the 1962 Rite of Baptism. According to Chris, this is what made all the difference.
REGINA: Tell us about that.
CHRIS: “This will be a little different”, they said to me. “We’re going to be using the 1962 Rite, and it’ll have a lot of Latin”. They said this to me with a huge grin, because they knew I would be completely on board with this.
REGINA: Why is that?
CHRIS: I have been as politely annoying as possible to lobby for more Latin in the liturgy at my parish.
REGINA: So, what did you think?
CHRIS: I have been to my fair share of baptisms, most recently for my youngest daughter. How different could this 1962 Rite be?
CHRIS: As it turns out, the “Rituale Romanum Rite for the baptism of children” is as different from the current “Rite of baptism” as the Latin Mass is from the Novus Ordo.
REGINA: For example?
CHRIS: We began OUTSIDE the sanctuary at the doors of the church, where the priest addressed the godparents as proxies for the child (“What is YOUR name?”).
Then came the “What are you asking of God’s Church” question, which I’ve only ever heard answered with “baptism”, but instead the godparents said “faith”.
“What does faith hold out to you?”
CHRIS: This was, for the most part, the end of the English. What followed were several exorcism prayers. They involved breathing in the face of the baby, marking the baby with the sign of the cross, the laying on of hands, and the blessing (and use) of salt. I can’t convey to you how powerful this portion of the baptism was, so I’m going to have to include a direct quote from the English rendition of the Rite:
“I cast you out, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Depart and stay far away from this servant of God. For it is the Lord Himself who commands you, accursed and doomed spirit, He who walked on the sea and reached out His hand to Peter as he was sinking. So then, foul fiend, recall the curse that decided your fate once for all. Indeed, pay homage to the living and true God, pay homage to Jesus Christ, His Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Keep far from this servant of God, for Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, has freely called him to His holy grace and blessed way and to the waters of baptism. Never dare, accursed fiend, to desecrate this seal of the holy cross which we imprint upon his brow; through Christ our Lord.”
REGINA: Kinda gets you between the eyes, right?
CHRIS: Compare that with what’s used in the current Rite:
“Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the splendor of your kingdom of light. We pray for this child: set him free from original sin, make him a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him. We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
REGINA: Wow, some difference!
REGINA: What happened next?
CHRIS: More prayers followed before everyone proceeded into the baptistery (whilst reciting the Apostles’ Creed), where, and the symbolism here is staggering, the doors were opened to welcome the child into God’s house. Next, there was ANOTHER exorcism prayer, the touching of the baby’s ears and nose, a threefold renunciation of Satan, and an anointing with oil. This is all before we even got to the baptismal font.
CHRIS: Once we did get to the font, the godparents (again, as proxies) made their profession of faith before the priest began the actual act of baptizing. Here, the old Ritual wasn’t so much different from the new. There was the pouring of water, the anointing with chrism, the bestowal of the white cloth, and the bestowal of the blessed candle.
REGINA: So, what was your takeaway?
CHRIS: The whole experience was captivating, and not just because of the Latin. You could really tell that the child was being prepared not only to enter God’s house, but also for spiritual combat. If my wife and are blessed with more children, I’m going to specifically request the older Ritual.
REGINA: Any thoughts on why this may have been done, and what its impact has been on the latest generations of Catholics?
CHRIS: It confounds me. Paul VI, in his general audience “Deliver us from evil”, said “one of the greatest needs [of the Church] is the defense from that evil, which we call the Devil”. How does it follow, then, that he thought the Rite of Baptism needed to have FEWER exorcism prayers? I feel like the watering down of the Rite (wow, I was not intending to make that pun) also waters down the effect it has on the mindset of the adult participants and witnesses. I know the revised Rite is valid, but now it feels like a downmarket replacement, and one that’s subtler than a felt banner.