Such radiant, exquisite beauty. How could anyone not take joy in such a wonderful family occasion?
My two sons received traditional catholic baptisms, followed by lavish family reunion dinners. I hand-made the embroidered and lace embellished christening gown, which was then carefully packed away for my grandchildren. They did not wear it. There was no baptism, or name giving ceremony, or special celebration. I applauded this, and regretted it.
I applaud it because I find the whole concept of a pre-emptive exorcism so repulsive, and because I object in principle to identifying an infant as a member of any particular religion. I think we have the right and the responsibility to learn and choose for ourselves, no matter how long it takes.
I regret that our secular world has developed so few ceremonies to replace the hold that religion has on our opportunities to express communal hope and solidarity, to value tradition, to gather inspiration from church music and architecture. We need to celebrate the milestones of birth and coming of age, weddings, and funerals in a new way, instead of paying lipservice to outmoded superstitions and magical thinking. But the churches have the best architecture and decor, the best music, the best dressed officiants, and years of monopoly on tradition. It will be beautiful. Besides, everyone knows what to do, the photos will be wonderful, and great grandma will be satisfied.
The ceremony itself leaves me upset and confused. Do these intelligent modern parents really believe in what they are doing and saying? How can they hear or say the words without gagging? How can they allow the ugliness of casting out devils and the presumption of promising eternal allegiance for their beautiful baby?
Stupidity? Hypocrisy? Cowardice? I am being too severe, I know. I must respect other people’s right to believe and to act as they wish. I try, I really try!
My friends seem to take comfort from the certainty and community they find at church. We do not discuss it. I wish we could, but perhaps it is too risky. Even as I disagree profoundly, I value their friendship and respect their choice too much to force the issue.
WHAT DO WE PROMISE through our Godparents in Baptism?
We promise through our godparents in Baptism to renounce the devil, and to live according to the teachings of Christ and of His Church.
The godparents make the responses for an infant being baptized. These are called the baptismal vows. By them the person renounces Satan and all his works and pomps; that is, sin and all occasions.
1. To the first three questions, we reply through our godparents in Baptism. “I do renounce him (or them).” To the last three questions we reply, “I do believe.”
(1) Do you renounce Satan? (2) And all his works? (3) And all his display?
(4) Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? (5) Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord, who was born into the world and suffered for us? (6) And do you believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
2. We should renew our baptismal vows after the blessing of the baptismal font at Easter Vigil service. We should also renew them on our First Communion day, on New Year’s Day, and after a mission or spiritual retreat.
Assuming the reality of demoniac possession, for which the authority of Christ is pledged, it is to be observed that Jesus appealed to His power over demons as one of the recognised signs of Messiahship (Matthew 12:23, 28; Luke 11:20). He cast out demons, He declared, by the finger or spirit of God, not, as His adversaries alleged, by collusion with the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24, 27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15, 19); and that He exercised no mere delegated power, but a personal authority that was properly His own, is clear from the direct and imperative way in which He commands the demon to depart (Mark 9:24; cf. 1:25 etc.): “He cast out the spirits with his word, and he healed all that were sick” (Matthew 8:16). Sometimes, as with the daughter of the Canaanean woman, the exorcism took place from a distance (Matthew 15:22 sqq.; Mark 7:25). Sometimes again the spirits expelled were allowed to express their recognition of Jesus as “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24) and to complain that He had come to torment them “before the time”, i.e the time of their punishment (Matthew 8:29 sqq; Luke 8:28 sqq.). If demoniac possession was generally accompanied by some disease, yet the two were not confounded by Christ, or the Evangelists. In Luke 13:32, for example, the Master Himself expressly distinguishes between the expulsion of evil spirits and the curing of disease.
Christ also empowered the Apostles and Disciples to cast out demons in His name while He Himself was still on earth (Matthew 10:1 and 8; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1; 10:17), and to believers generally He promised the same power (Mark 16:17). But the efficacy of this delegated power was conditional, as we see from the fact that the Apostles themselves were not always successful in their exorcisms: certain kinds of spirits, as Christ explained, could only be cast out by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:15, 20; Mark 9:27-28; Luke 9:40). In other words the success of exorcism by Christians, in Christ’s name, is subject to the same general conditions on which both the efficacy of prayer and the use of charismatic power depend. Yet conspicuous success was promised (Mark 16:17). St. Paul (Acts 16:18; 19:12), and, no doubt, the other Apostles and Disciples, made use of regularly, as occasion arose, of their exorcising power, and the Church has continued to do so uninterruptedly to the present day.