OCF 237: A Child’s Death Before Baptism

An important catechetical point, and one of the rare textual footnotes in the rites:

237. Funeral rites may be celebrated for children whose parents intended them to be baptized but who died before baptism.* In these celebrations the Christian community entrusts the child to God’s all-embracing love and finds strength in this love and in Jesus’ affirmation that the kingdom of God belongs to little children (see MAtthew 19:14).

*In the general catechesis of the faithful, pastors and other ministers  should explain that the celebration of the funeral rites for children who die before baptism is not intended to weaken the Church’s teaching on the necessity of baptism.

One of the problems with rationalism is that it can tend to be dualistic. If the Eucharist is a sacrifice, then it can’t be a meal. If one hates the 2008/2010 English MR3, then one must like the current sacramentary.

If we celebrate funerals for the unbaptized, then is baptism less relevant than a funeral? No. Funeral rites are multivalent: they operate for the faithful on many different levels, all at the same time. Perhaps in the funeral of an infant the Church is less concerned with prayers for the dead than it might be for the ministry of compassion to the mourners and the community. Finding strength in God’s “all embracing love” and in the words of the Lord Jesus: that would seem to be a sound reasoning for celebrating liturgy and entrusting an unbaptized child to God.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Order of Christian Funerals, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to OCF 237: A Child’s Death Before Baptism

  1. Irene says:

    I had not realised there was such a service. I have since named my 5 babies and offered them up to God and pray for them regularly.

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