Built of Living Stones 69: Design Criteria for the Font

Wrapping up our look at the baptismal font, the bishops offer six points to consider:

§ 69 § The following criteria can be helpful when choosing the design for the font:

1. One font that will accommodate the baptism of both infants and adults symbolizes the one faith and one baptism that Christians share. The size and design of the font can facilitate the dignified celebration for all who are baptized at the one font.

That infants and adults can be accommodated at the same place is largely an unconceded good. One design consultant I worked with many years ago, was critical of the two-in-one font, and instead advocated infants be baptized on a shelf or step in the main font. This is a point of reflection that many churches seem to pass over, given the widespread phenomenon of a higher pool for infants (even at my own parish).

2. The font should be large enough to supply ample water for the baptism of both adults and infants. Since baptism in Catholic churches may take place by immersion in the water, or by infusion (pouring), fonts that permit all forms of baptismal practice are encouraged.(RCIA 213; US National Statutes 17)

Please note that immersion is not the same as submersion, or the full “dunking” of a person in the water. Submersion is acceptable, but the traditional immersion will have the candidate kneel in the water and have an ample amount poured over the head and body.

3. Baptism is a sacrament of the whole Church and, in particular, of the local parish community. Therefore the ability of the congregation to participate in baptisms is an important consideration.

How does a community participate? The answers to questions in baptism form II, of course, as well as in acclamations and songs.

4. The location of the baptistry will determine how, and how actively, the entire liturgical assembly can participate in the rite of baptism.

Not only the location of the baptistry, but the ease of movement within the seats of the nave.

5. Because of the essential relationship of baptism to the celebration of other sacraments and rituals, the parish will want to choose an area for the baptistry or the font that visually symbolizes that relationship. Some churches choose to place the baptistry and font near the entrance to the church. Confirmation and the Eucharist complete the initiation begun at baptism; marriage and ordination are ways of living the life of faith begun in baptism; the funeral of a Christian is the final journey of a life in Christ that began in baptism; and the sacrament of penance calls the faithful to conversion and to a renewal of their baptismal commitment. Placing the baptismal font in an area near the entrance or gathering space where the members pass regularly and setting it on an axis with the altar can symbolize the relationship between the various sacraments as well as the importance of the Eucharist within the life and faith development of the members.

This is a common feature of many new or renovated churches. Baptism of infants and adults also serves as a reminder to the community of its evangelical nature.

6. With the restoration of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults that culminates in baptism at the Easter Vigil, churches need private spaces where the newly baptized can go immediately after their baptism to be clothed in their white garments and to prepare for the completion of initiation in the Eucharist. In some instances, nearby sacristies can serve this purpose.

Although most buildings have restrooms and lounges available, too. The availability of one sacristy is helpful. but in most places, most years, two locations, minimum are needed.

This is a lot for one post. Does anybody see other situations not mentioned that impact design?

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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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.
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