Dear Editor, Charles Byrne is right in voicing his concern that “tens or even hundreds of invalid baptisms” were celebrated with Fr Iggy O’Donovan acting as celebrant (IC 26/9/13).
While the affair as reported has a distinctive legalistic and Pharisaical aspect to it, I would not just agree with the statistics quoted but multiply them by hundreds! The sad fact is obvious to all who celebrate the Eucharist each weekend that most baptisms in the country are invalid. Where are all the younger people who comprise more than half the population. How many children from the parish schools do we see? The invalidity has little to do with the water used at the baptism, but rather with the manner in which the parents respond to the following question they are asked during the baptismal ceremony: “You have asked to have your child baptised.
In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the Faith.” … Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking? Baptism is the first step in the initiation process whereby we become followers of Christ and members of the Local Church. Like all rites of initiation it was designed to be memorable – taking place in the darkness of the Easter Vigil, with its stripping away of one’s old cloak, total immersion in water, being re-robed in white and anointed with oil.
By comparison, the present ceremony designed for children is so tame. Yes! The type of person with the legalistic mind-set – the kind who was invariably opposed to Jesus and his openness – could engage in knit-picking regarding the method of pouring the water. But the real test for validity is whether the parents will in fact train the child in the practice of the Faith.
Finally, as long as we spend time and energy discussing such liturgical niceties, we can avoid the obvious – that most of the baptisms in this country are invalid.