Baptism ~ the Heavenly Imperative

You may have read the disturbing news about the Phoenix priest who performed hundreds of invalid baptisms over a period of years through his improper changing of the words “I baptize you…” to “We baptize you…” A small clerical error you may think which, in reality, has had huge and tragic ramifications for hundreds of people who believed they were redeemed Christians but in reality remained under the curse of original sin. This is no small matter, since any of those persons who may have died in that state will be denied the joys of heaven and the beatific vision.

This case represents a prime example of the careless and lax attitude in free circulation today among Christians that good intentions can pave the way to heaven. Actually, that familiar adage says just the opposite, namely that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For too many contemporary Churchmen the sacraments have become symbols of our inherent virtues. This is a further reflection of the presumptuousness of modern man who has neatly forgotten that salvation is a free gift from God, not an entitlement. In fact sacraments, and especially baptism, are visible concrete realities capable of infusing invisible grace into otherwise deadened souls. As such their form needs to be fixed and precise so that there can be no doubt as to their efficacy. Yet too many “progressive” liturgists have been playing loose and easy with long settled formulas and causing untold damage in their egoistic wake.

For example, over the past 50 years it has become popular among certain priests and ministers to baptize children in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier, a formula that invalidates the sacrament for the simple reason that those things are divine functions – not part of the divine NAME in which Christ himself mandated baptisms be performed (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). I am reminded of a pithy line from the movie The Princess Bride where Wesley reminds the princess after her hasty wedding ceremony, “You didn’t say it then you didn’t do it.” Words are incredibly important.

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