Saturday, May 4, 2013
Good counsel. . .
It strikes me that there is some solid practical wisdom in these words. I have often lamented that among some baptism is practiced indiscriminately -- y'all come -- and there is great pastoral wisdom in requiring a little catechesis before baptism. And there is great pastoral wisdom in what comes after -- the follow up with the baptized lest they and their families be forgotten or allowed to forget the promises they made at the baptism. How many of those who never make it past baptism have received follow up care from the Church? Clearly this is not open ended baptism without pastoral care of the baptized.
I think it also strikes true for first communion. It seems to me that when we withhold communion until confirmation we ask a great deal more of those who commune than other periods in history. Luther communed youth at a far younger age than we regularly do. I am not in favor of a great first communion ceremony or rite to compete with either baptism or confirmation but I do think that communing ought to be encouraged as soon as youth can understand what they are receiving. I also require first private confession of those who seek first communion because that helps them understand the benefit of the Sacrament and what commends worthy reception (faith in the words and examination of life and conscience leading to contrition and repentance).
It often seems as if we think like those who ended up withholding the chalice from the lay -- some things are too holy to be given freely without demonstrating a certain level of worthiness and jumping through a few hoops. Some catechesis before is good and salutary and the catechesis of the rite itself needs some focus but I wonder why we seem to ask more of those who come to the sacrament(s) for the first time than we ask of those who come back...
I personally know of situations in which Pastors have refused or made it difficult to baptize the child of parents living together. Now, if you read this blog you know I do not believe we should leave such living arrangements unchallenged but neither do I believe that the child should be made to suffer for the sin of the parents. Baptism represents an opportune window for some catechesis, for an encounter with grace, which, last I checked, we believed is the means through which God works. The key here is balance -- preparation and catechesis but not roadblocks to the means of grace... But with all of this is the key - follow up!