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?
A good reminder that neither the Church nor its members chooses who will be evangelized and saved. God’s grace invites very soul. The question is: are we on board with the effort?
27. Evangelization will also always contain – as the foundation, center, and at the same time, summit of its dynamism – a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all (people), as a gift of God’s grace and mercy.[Cf. Eph 2:8; Rom 1:16. Cf. Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaratio ad fidem tuendam in mysteria Incarnationis et SS. Trinitatis e quibusdam recentibus erroribus (21 February 1972): AAS 64 (1972), pp. 237-241] And not an immanent salvation, meeting material or even spiritual needs, restricted to the framework of temporal existence and completely identified with temporal desires, hopes, affairs and struggles, but a salvation which exceeds all these limits in order to reach fulfillment in a communion with the one and only divine Absolute: a transcendent and eschatological salvation, which indeed has its beginning in this life but which is fulfilled in eternity.
Salvation is begun by the events of evangelization. But evangelization itself is but the start of a “transcendant and eschatological” journey. What does that mean? Certainly not that believers are absolved of a certain urgency, an initiative to cast our nets. But we don’t have to rely on the finished product coming from our own hands either. The mystery of salvation might require we sponsor no conversions to Christ, but that we plant a lot of seeds, knowing that some of that effort will take root and others will reap for the Reign of God. The ultimate realization of the Reign of God will be realized not even if or when every human being acclaims Christ, but when we gather in the final fulfillment of God’s plan–whatever that looked like.
Only a couple of minutes into his homily, Cardinal Dolan, who noted that all were gathered “to salute a great Bishop of Rochester,” got to the prevailing sentiment of the occasion.
“Why don’t I just say it, what’s in all our hearts. Matthew, we love you very much,” Cardinal Dolan remarked, setting off thunderous applause that became a standing ovation.
Cardinal Dolan was wondering later about the Garbage Plate. Please, archbishop, stay on that diet!
I remember that Matthew Clark was regarded with deep suspicion by some when he came to Rochester in 1979–directly from Rome. The previous bishop had, at his predecessor‘s urging, been appointed from among the pastors of the diocese in 1969. That still seems a generally sensible idea, one that Pope Benedict occasionally endorses, such as here, and that occasionally is rejected, sometimes with disastrous results, such as here.
In the early 80′s, I was thinking it better to form my own opinion on a bishop rather than swim with the current. I would occasionally cross paths with Bishop Clark in my formation years. he was always friendly, inquiring about my studies. He seemed more up-to-date on them than my pastor. I remember being most impressed with Bishop Clark as a skilled and prayerful presider, especially at confirmations.
My Kansas City bishops in comparison were dry and difficult presiders and preachers. Bishop Finn did restore the Eucharist for confirmation. And forty-minute homilies were trimmed somewhat. Give me a good prayerful bishop who engages ars celebrandi–who cares for his politics or ideology. Speaking of which, if one were to judge the need for a successor bishop in Rochester, one might have thought that an appointment would be coming the day Bishop Clark turned 75. The counters on the conservative web sites are gone, and the Catholic Right is still grinding its teeth.
Without getting into specifics, BLS opens the discussion by suggesting traditional symbolism for the design of the font:
§ 68 § Water is the key symbol of baptism and the focal point of the font. In this water believers die to sin and are reborn to new life in Christ. In designing the font and the iconography in the baptismal area, the parish will want to consider the traditional symbolism that has been the inspiration for the font’s design throughout history. The font is a symbol of both tomb and womb; its power is the power of the triumphant cross; and baptism sets the Christian on the path to the life that will never end, the “eighth day” of eternity where Christ’s reign of peace and justice is celebrated.
Six sides (tomb, Friday) or eight sides (womb, Sunday)? Stone and suggestive of a mausoleum? Colors in tile or frescoes?
Iconography–that’s the term used. In my parish, we have the ambry set nearby, and a cross inlaid into the bottom of the font.
My own recollection of baptism, which was conducted in a baptistry, is that behind the priest, I saw a stained glass piece that contained the Apostle’s Creed. A helpful “crib sheet,” but I tried to focus on the water instead. Something less literal would be great. What do you think of this banner over the cathedral font in St Mary’s, Winnipeg?
working with dioceses and parishes to introduce the apostleship to more people
developing the Eucharistic Youth Movement, which is the branch for children and teens
Makes sense to me. Many parishes already have such a structure–some variation of a “prayer chain.” The digital version of the AoP is probably about ten years late. But better late than never. More:
Membership in the Apostleship of Prayer involves a commitment to beginning each day with a prayer offering one’s life to God and praying for the needs of the universal church and the intentions of the pope. Members promise to end each day prayerfully reviewing their blessings and failings.
The morning offering and prayers are the basic membership requirements, and in many countries the apostleship has no registration, no groups, no fees, and no special meetings. The Jesuits estimate that about 50 million people fulfill the membership requirements in the apostleship and its youth wing, the Eucharistic Youth Movement.
Reviewing blessings and failings is nothing more than the daily examen. More tools are probably needed to instill that a bit more deeply.
The following two sections are not superfluous, but they do cover relatively recent territory.
25. In the message which the Church proclaims there are certainly many secondary elements. Their presentation depends greatly on changing circumstances. They themselves also change. But there is the essential content, the living substance, which cannot be modified or ignored without seriously diluting the nature of evangelization itself.
26. It is not superfluous to recall the following points: to evangelize is first of all to bear witness, in a simple and direct way, to God revealed by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to bear witness that in His Son God has loved the world – that in His Incarnate Word He has given being to all things and has called men to eternal life. Perhaps this attestation of God will be for many people the unknown God[Cf. Acts 17:22-23] whom they adore without giving Him a name, or whom they seek by a secret call of the heart when they experience the emptiness of all idols. But it is fully evangelizing in manifesting the fact that for (people) the Creator is not an anonymous and remote power; He is the Father: “…that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”[1 Jn 3:1; cf. Rom 8:14-17] And thus we are one another’s brothers and sisters in God.
The notion that people follow God without being explicitly Christian–does that affect evangelization? I wouldn’t think it negates the need to bear witness to Christ and to tell others about him. But it does imply we have a family relationship with any sincere person attempting to find God and to live according to the precepts espoused by the Son, whether they know him or not.
Note that the sanctuary space isn’t really a traditional or a preferred location for the baptismal font. I would assume this is especially true in the (sometimes lamentable) situation of portable or movable fonts. My last parish, despite having a strong liturgist as a pastor, could never muster the energy for a permanent font, let alone wheel the portable one to a location outside the sanctuary.
That said, there are positive values to consider, so let’s get to them:
§ 67 § The location of the baptismal font, its design, and the materials used for its construction are important considerations in the planning and design of the building. It is customary to locate the baptismal font either in a special area within the main body of the church or in a separate baptistry. Through the waters of baptism the faithful enter the life of Christ.(RCIA 213) For this reason the font should be visible and accessible to all who enter the church building. While the baptistry is proportioned to the building itself and should be able to hold a good number of people, its actual size will be determined by the needs of the local community.
If a font is placed in the nave, then the standards of a good baptistry, especially design and room for people, should be guiding the planning and discernment. How many are a “good number of people”? That would depend on the number of those attending a baptism outside of Mass, routinely. A separate room should be able to provide for thirty at minimum. A location near the juncture of nave and narthex with flexible seating might be optimal in many ways.
Pope Paul did not lay out this apostolic exhortation in outline form. With today’s section we reach the end of the “theoretical” part one, in which he outlines the Scriptural and theological underpinnings of a modern evangelical effort. As one might expect, he expects, and Christ expects it to come full circle. The evangelized become those casting the nets for others:
24. Finally, the person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.
To complete these considerations on the meaning of evangelization, a final observation must be made, one which we consider will help to clarify the reflections that follow.
Evangelization, as we have said, is a complex process made up of varied elements: the renewal of humanity, witness, explicit proclamation, inner adherence, entry into the community, acceptance of signs, apostolic initiative. These elements may appear to be contradictory, indeed mutually exclusive. In fact they are complementary and mutually enriching. Each one must always be seen in relationship with the others. The value of the last Synod was to have constantly invited us to relate these elements rather than to place them in opposition one to the other, in order to reach a full understanding of the Church’s evangelizing activity.
Do these aspects seem contradictory? I’m not sure they do–not to me. This list of elements acknowledges that, yes, evangelization is complex. But after the initial faith witness, the community employs the varied gifts of its members to lead seekers closer to Christ.
It is this global vision which we now wish to outline, by examining the content of evangelization and the methods of evangelizing and by clarifying to whom the Gospel message is addressed and who today is responsible for it.
BLS devotes a lot of word to their examination of the demands the baptismal rites place on church architecture and design. We’ll cover the next four sections carefully.
§ 66 § The rites of baptism, the first of the sacraments of initiation, require a prominent place for celebration.(RCIA 25) Initiation into the Church is entrance into a eucharistic community united in Jesus Christ. Because the rites of initiation of the Church begin with baptism and are completed by the reception of the Eucharist, the baptismal font and its location reflect the Christian’s journey through the waters of baptism to the altar. This integral relationship placing the font and altar on the same architectural axis, using natural or artificial lighting, using the same floor patterns, and using common or similar materials and elements of design.
The first challenge is judging the “required prominence.” Proximity to the altar is a common solution. Another is placement at the church entrance, suggesting baptism as the “entrance into a eucharistic community.” My community has chosen the latter option, with placement on the same axis, and the use of similar lighting–a “crown” of lights suggestive of the baldacchin over the altar.
The point of BLS 66 being that baptistry design not be a peripheral concern. We’ll explore this further over the next few days.
Well over twenty years ago, I was seeing a counselor regularly for a few years. Young adult issues surfaced in my life with a roar: sex and relationships, family-of-origin issues, compulsions and self-destructive behavior, an unpleasant boss. Nothing life-threatening, but serious enough that I felt my quality of life spiraling away from me.
But I found a curious thing happened just by talking about my worries. Much of the attractive lure of my indulgences melted away as I gave voice to them. There was one particular issue that was a source of shame, but when I finally worked up the nerve to bring it to counseling, it seemed to lose much of its power over me. I had brought it to confession before, of course. But there was a different quality about it there. I felt forgiven sacramentally, naturally. But the glow never lasted. I didn’t feel as if I had really moved. It was like being covered in mud, then rinsing off when the rain came. When I looked around, I was spanking clean, but the mud was still all around me. It was easier to sit down and roll with it than to trek out of my surroundings and seek out higher ground.
The first two verses of Psalm 40 come to mind. It’s not enough to realize one is in a tight spot. One has to move. If need be, one can ask for assistance to move:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
I’ve been enjoying my recent sojourn into Ignatian spirituality. It has been a fruitful combination of challenge and confirmation. I was struck recently by James Martin’s sharing of the value of having a spiritual director or spiritual friend. This is the person with whom one can speak of secret temptations and lures. Getting something out into the open, out into the light, makes it less powerful in one’s life. According to Saint Ignatius, this counters the enemy’s lure to the person as a false lover, one who urges that temptations remain secret. And in secrecy, they gain power over the believer.
This must be what happened to my friend Shawn Ratigan in his descent into child pornography. Pornography is no question a false lover. I can understand the need to keep it a deep secret. Even adults viewing adults in a context of vowed celibacy or marriage, and when brought into the light, one wants to ask simply, “Why?”
Under the guise of a good, the avoidance of scandal, Bishop Finn also got caught in the trap of the false lover. Much was concealed from people: the reason for the attempted suicide, the contents of the computer, the priest from his friends, parents from the suspicions, the full extent of the crime from police authorities, and even decisions which could have been easily, gladly, and wisely assisted by a close circle of circumspect advisors.
What’s the antidote here? Bring everything out into the open–all those negative feelings and temptations and urges to do wrong or to despair or to move away from God.
How often this happens in spiritual direction! Someone seems to be dancing around some uncomfortable topic, something he is afraid of revealing, precisely because he knows that once it’s out in the open he will be challenged to recognize how unhealthy it is.
Once it’s revealed, the unhealthy urge, decision, or tendency can be examined, healed, or rejected. When a young Jesuit is tempted to break his vows in any way, for example, he often suppresses the desire to talk about his struggles with his superior or his spiritual director, and the frustrations and fears and secrecy and problems only deepen.
This has certainly been true in my life. Looking back on my late twenties and early thirties, I see I was a muddy mess in a lot of ways. I had the opportunity for invaluable spiritual direction. Of course, I was afraid of mentioning how often I didn’t pray. A lot of wasted time, it would seem.
But today, I’m tempted to focus more on the present, and not so much, “If only I knew what I was doing!” (Likely that when I reach age seventy, I’ll look back on today with a similar lament.)
I think there is a place for a person’s good sense to guide the revelation of secrets. For me, I talk with my wife often, and I try mightily to discuss my small mud puddles before they become desolate pits and miry bogs. I value the setting of the sacrament of marriage. For my wife and I, we often speak in our shared trials as being each other’s ticket to sainthood. It used to be something of a jest between us. As we grow older, I think it has developed a much more serious tone. A good thing, to be sure.
How do we assess the development of faith? By the knowledgeable and accurate presentation of the evangelizer, the catechist, or the pastoral minister? Nope. When the seeker has “adhered” to a new way of life:
23. In fact the proclamation only reaches full development when it is listened to, accepted and assimilated, and when it arouses a genuine adherence in the one who has thus received it. An adherence to the truths which the Lord in His mercy has revealed; still more, an adherence to a program of life – a life henceforth transformed – which He proposes. In a word, adherence to the kingdom, that is to say, to the “new world,” to the new state of things, to the new manner of being, of living, of living in community, which the Gospel inaugurates. Such an adherence, which cannot remain abstract and unincarnated, reveals itself concretely by a visible entry into a community of believers. Thus those whose life has been transformed enter a community which is itself a sign of transformation, a sign of newness of life: it is the Church, the visible sacrament of salvation.[Cf. Lumen Gentium 1, 9, 48; Gaudium et Spes 42, 45; Ad Gentes, 1] Our entry into the ecclesial community will in its turn be expressed through many other signs which prolong and unfold the sign of the Church. In the dynamism of evangelization, a person who accepts the Church as the Word which saves[Cf. Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18] normally translates it into the following sacramental acts: adherence to the Church, and acceptance of the sacraments, which manifest and support this adherence through the grace which they confer.
Baptism and full initiation is the most public, the most visible sign of the completion of evangelization. As is true with the proclamation of the Gospel that follows life’s witness, the preparation for initiation and its celebration requires the distinguishing and discernment of a community’s gifts. As always, I caution that these stages are less distinct periods, but add-ons in the Christian experience. In other words, everyone always and everywhere gives good witness whether seekers and inquirers are watching or not. We commit ourselves to listen to the proclamation of teaching for ever. We renew our experience of baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation every time we celebrate Mass. It is important, vital even, to communicate that sacraments are not “graduation events” from a period of catechesis.
I was having a discussion with a priest friend of mine about the order of receiving the Body and Blood at Mass. I said there was no legislation in place for the laity, only custom.
He said that priests are obligated by the rubrics to receive the Body, then the Blood.
There are no such rubrics for the people, I said. We may receive under one or either form. A priest is blocked from receiving under only one form. Lay people have greater freedom.
I recounted one experience where I left the piano during the refrain of a communion song. The minister assigned to give the Body to the choir was momentarily distracted, so I went to the cup first, then the other minister before scooting back to the keyboard.
My friend said, “Accidents are permitted.”
“It wasn’t an accident,” I said.
I certainly wouldn’t encourage a reverse order as a custom, but I’m not aware of any limitations on it for the laity, are any of you?
Let’s look at what BLS has to say about the priest’s chair:
§ 63 § The chair of the priest celebrant stands “as a symbol of his office of presiding over the assembly and of directing prayer.”(GIRM 310) An appropriate placement of the chair allows the priest celebrant to be visible to all in the congregation. The chair reflects the dignity of the one who leads the community in the person of Christ, but is never intended to be remote or grandiose. The priest celebrant’s chair is distinguished from the seating for other ministers by its design and placement. “The seat for the deacon should be placed near that of the celebrant.”(GIRM 310) In the cathedral, in addition to the bishop’s chair or cathedra, which is permanent, an additional chair will be needed for use by the rector or priest celebrant.(Ceremonial of Bishops 47)
“Presidency” is a suspect term in some circles, but the Latin roots are appropriate for the role of the priest: prae = “in front of” and sidere = “to sit.” From his seat, a priest directs and prayer of the assembly. Visibility without remoteness is prime. Design and location distinguishes this chair from other seating.
Most deacon chairs are placed next to the priest’s, but the GIRM only calls for proximity.
And you all knew that the bishop’s chair is not to be used by clergy, and as we read in BLS 64, a lay person does not use the priest’s chair:
§ 64 § “The [most appropriate] place for the chair is at the head of the sanctuary and turned toward the people unless the design of the building or other circumstances [such as distance or the placement of the tabernacle] are an obstacle.”(GIRM 310) This chair is not used by a lay person who presides at a service of the word with Communion or a Sunday celebration in the absence of a priest. (Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest , no. 40.)
§ 65 § Other chairs may be placed in the sanctuary for the priest concelebrants and other priests present for the celebration in choir dress.
Sanctuary placement for concelebrants is optional.
The witness is a first and necessary step. Then comes the proclamation of the Lord:
22. Nevertheless this always remains insufficient, because even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified – what Peter called always having “your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have”[1 Pt 3:15] – and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed. The history of the Church, from the discourse of Peter on the morning of Pentecost onwards, has been intermingled and identified with the history of this proclamation. At every new phase of human history, the Church, constantly gripped by the desire to evangelize, has but one preoccupation: whom to send to proclaim the mystery of Jesus? In what way is this mystery to be proclaimed? How can one ensure that it will resound and reach all those who should hear it? This proclamation – kerygma, preaching or catechesis – occupies such an important place in evangelization that it has often become synonymous with it; and yet it is only one aspect of evangelization.
So when we are asked, we do not cite catechism section and number. We refer to the name, message, life, promises, rule, and mystery of Jesus. And whether is takes place in the coffeehouse, the classroom, or the church, it is only one step.
My sense is that every single believer is called to the first step: the life witness. It is with EN 22 that the spiritual gifts of the Body are discerned and sorted based on the needs of the listeners, the newcomers.
In the third week of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises the believer places herself or himself with the Lord in the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. It’s not just a rereading of the Passion narratives. The intention is for the person to accompany the Lord in his sufferings. James Martin’s book The Jesuit Guide To (Almost) Everything refers to this. He cites David Fleming, SJ on these meditations:
We know the story of the Passion. Ignatius wants us to experience it as something fresh and immediate. We learn to suffer with Jesus, and thus we learn to suffer with the people in our lives.
This really struck me on my walk home last night. I’ve had two ministry challenges early this semester–relationships with people I haven’t quite been able to figure out. Not conflicts, really, but awkwardness that, if unchecked, could lead to misunderstanding or even dispute. I’ve been trying to bring this to prayer. But the Ignatian wisdom of placing oneself with Jesus, with the other person, made an impact.
My ministry experiences tell me how vital it is to be a companion to people I serve. It’s not enough to know about them: name, age, address, cell phone. Or other more personal stuff: number of years married, vocal range, favorite saint. For relationships I choose to take seriously or that I need to take seriously, it is incumbent on me to be a companion, and to experience a sharing of life and faith.
This is one reason why the political pro-life movement has been such a failure. Activists “know” their facts. They “know” church teaching. They “know” their political methods. But they have no “bread with” people who choose abortions. It seems like people who “know” the Lord. Perhaps they can even cite chapter and verse. But without the experience, perhaps they do not know. Not fully.
A Roman Catholic lay person, married (since 1996), with one adopted child (since 2001). I serve in worship and spiritual life in a midwestern university parish.
Neil has been a blogging collaborator for the past several years on Catholic Sensibility. He brings his unique experiences from theology, spirituality, and the ecumenical sphere. Pay special attention to each one of his posts.