But I still love the church

Several years ago, our monthly discussion group had a Mass around a coffee table in the lounge of a residence for religious. The celebrant poured wine into the chalice and set the bottle on the table. A few moments later he said, “We better move this bottle back to the counter otherwise we’ll consecrate the whole batch.” I remember wondering if he was joking, or if there  actually was some “rule” requiring that the bottle be moved.

Sometime after that, I read an article on invalid baptisms. Apparently some were baptizing using the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier.”  These baptisms would be invalid, the article said, since the words were not according to the formula, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

During the past week, there was an article on the mutual recognition of baptisms between the Roman Catholic Church and several Christian denominations. It was agreed that one need not be re-baptized if the proper formula was used and if documentation proclaiming the validity would be kept in the church records.

This last bit of information was a complete surprise to me. People are “received” into the Catholic church all the time without being re-baptized. Do we really do a validity background check? Does it matter?

I guess I take Saint Paul too seriously, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all”

Then I think back to the wine-on-the-table incident. Maybe the celebrant wasn’t joking after all. Perhaps the Holy Spirit really doesn’t know what she’s doing. Maybe it is the correct words for baptism  and the correct placement of wine bottles  that make the Sacraments work rather than the intent of those present. That the Holy Spirit comes forth only when the formula is correct to the last syllable and the ritual is followed to the tiniest movement.

So, one can only conclude that we worship a complete moron … in the eyes of the hierarchy. Can’t you picture the Holy Spirit descending toward the little infant surrounded by beaming parents and reverent godparents only to retreat with alarm and horror when she hears the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of …. ” Is there a cosmic alarm that goes off: ABORT BAPTISM! GRACE DENIED! ABORT BAPTISM! Is that poor kid going to go through life with the stain of Original Sin just because the recipe was botched?

But I still love the church and our local faith community no matter how silly things get in the front office.

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