Yesterday Bp. Hendriks, our auxiliary, came to church to baptise two adults and confirm…oh dear. I want to say six, but it could have been five.
That sentence suggests that I wasn’t paying much attention, but I was, truly I was! It seems, though, that I wasn’t paying attention to everything. But what I was attending to was what I want to get down on cyber-paper here so that I can relax and try and remember how many confirmandi there were.
It wasn’t the first Baptism I’d been to (har har); it wasn’t the first EF Baptism I’d been to; it was, however, the first one where I’d actually paid attention to everything that was going on (have I mentioned that I’m not terribly observant?). Lo and behold, when you’re following along, you notice stuff, and that’s the stuff that’s in this post.
First, there is so much stuff. I’ve seen NO Baptisms done in about seven minutes after the Gospel and homily, but to be fair that’s almost invariably been of infants (adults being baptised at a moment other than the Paschal Vigil is something I’ve only seen in this country). After yesterday I’m almost left wondering exactly how many demons there could possibly be in an unshriven that need so many exorcisms.
Secondly, the stuff is pretty involved. By that I don’t mean it’s hard to understand (having a vernacular translation helps, but as with the Mass texts, it’s better to go through them before or after the fact as that leaves you free during the ceremony itself to just go with the flow), but things happen that at first glance seem weird. Your face gets breathed on (there’s probably a page in a sacramental praxis textbook from the 17thC that forbids the cleric from eating garlic or the like beforehand). You get salt put on your tongue. Crosses are marked on various and sundry parts of your body, by two different people (women are marked with a digitus to avoid a bishop (or priest for that matter) using his actual thumb to mark your chest. Ahem.
Thirdly, it can take a while. So onlookers who have trouble standing and aren’t essential for the actions come into the church and sit down. Or you can move around and try to get a better view (the bishop’s right hand man wasn’t used to me standing side on next to him – poor fellow – and craning my neck to see what was going on). Basically, if you’re not being a prat or bolshing in, or if you can get out of the way of Someone Important when he has to move around, you’re fine. Sure, step up and take a look. Baptism is a public thing.
Fourthly, there is an awesome Catholic ninja-moment during Confirmation that reminds me of ordinations (as the prostration of the catechumens reminded Bp. H of the same during Baptism). How that would work with a mantilla I’m not sure.
Fifthly, it was so wonderfully appropriate that our own bishop came to do this. I really hope Bp. H understands just how important it was that he was here. It’s all well and good to invite prelates from other places to come and administer these sacraments, but he’s our bishop and it’s his job to do so because we’re part of his diocese. It’s special – but shouldn’t be – that he was willing.