Last week, we discussed the biblical foundation of the Sacrament of Baptism. Today, we shall conclude our study about it.
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
Who can baptize?
Ordinarily, the minister of Baptism is a priest or a deacon.
However, in an emergency, anyone can baptize—even a non-Catholic or non-Christian. All that is required is that the person baptizing:
- Intend to do what the Catholic Church does in this sacrament
- Pour water upon the head (ordinary tap water is fine in an emergency)
- Say audibly the words of Baptism while pouring water, similar to: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
These are words that every Catholic should know as well as he knows his own name. Someone’s eternal salvation may one day depend upon the knowing of these words.
If the person receiving emergency Baptism is of the age of reason (at least seven years old or so), then they must have the necessary faith to receive Baptism:
~ Faith in God the Blessed Trinity as the rewarder of the just and the punisher of the wicked and in Jesus Christ as God’s own Son and our Redeemer.
~ The willingness to accept all that the Catholic Church teaches.
Such opportunities to administer Baptism may never come to us, but it is of profound importance that we be prepared at all times.
What about those who die without Baptism?
If Baptism is so absolutely necessary in order to get to heaven (and it is), then what about all those people who die without even having a chance to be baptized?
What about those who perhaps don’t even know about Baptism?
Will they lose heaven when it’s no fault of theirs at all?
No one who has reached the age of reason loses heaven except through his own fault. It is an article of Christian faith, defined by the Church, that God gives to every soul He creates sufficient grace to be saved. No one ever will be able to say: “I lost heaven because I couldn’t help it.”
For those who have no opportunity to be baptized, the path to God is the path of love.
A person who loves God above all things else and desires to do all that God wants him to do has “Baptism of desire.” If circumstances make it impossible for him to receive sacramental Baptism, his Baptism of desire will be sufficient to open for him the gates of heaven.
Just as supreme love for God forgives all sin, even mortal sin, in the soul of a baptized person who cannot get to confession, so also supreme love for God will take away all sin, original as well as actual sin, from the soul of one who cannot yet receive Baptism.
When a person who loves God knows about Baptism and wants to be baptized, we call that explicit Baptism of desire.
When a person ignorant of Baptism loves God and has the desire to do all that God wants, we call that implicit Baptism of desire. In other words, the desire for Baptism is contained implicitly in the desire to do God’s will. If the person knew about Baptism and knew that God wanted him to receive it, the person would be baptized; what God wants, he wants.
A person taking instruction in preparation for Baptism (Catechumen) would have explicit Baptism of desire if his faith were accompanied by a love for God for His own sake. A devout Jew or Muslim with supreme love for God might well have implicit Baptism of desire.
The highest form of substitute for sacramental Baptism is what we call Baptism of blood. “Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Even without Baptism, anyone who suffers martyrdom for the sake of Christ is certain of his eternal reward. Martyrdom is defined as “the suffering, from a supernatural motive, of death or a mortal wound inflicted out of hatred for Christ, His religion, or a Christian virtue.”
The term “martyr” is reserved officially for one who has suffered a bloody or a violent death for Christ.
In the days when the Church was formulating her definition of martyrdom, death at the hands of Christ’s enemies was usually quick, if not always merciful. It remained for our modern “civilized” age to refine methods of torture by which death could be made to last for years and a man could be killed without leaving a mark upon his body.
There have been many souls in Communist prisons and slave-labor camps who are suffering what Bishop Fulton Sheen has called “dry martyrdom.” There can be no questioning the reality of their martyrdom. Their agony of mind and body may last for years. Whether they die of dysentery or other prison-contracted disease or are left to freeze to death where they drop of exhaustion—it will be a martyr’s palm that they bear with them into eternity.
And doubtless many among them—especially in China—are catechumens who never had the opportunity to be baptized before their imprisonment.
God bless you.
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