Baptism is the foundation of the whole Catholic life. It is the gateway to life in the Holy Spirit and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments. Baptism is a one-off event and anyone who has been not previously been baptised may seek Baptism. Through Baptism a person is reborn as a daughter or son of God. It is through Baptism that an individual begins his or her formal relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church.
Baptism is the first of three Sacraments of Initiation in the Catholic Church, the other two being Confirmation and Eucharist. Through Baptism we are incorporated into the body of Christ.
Baptism is celebrated by immersion or the pouring of water with the words
“I baptise you in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit”.
Parents who ask to have their children baptised accept the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith and bringing them up to keep God’s commandments.
Confirmation can be seen as God’s injection of spiritual vitamins for the journey through life This sacrament is the one that suggests to us the wonderful in-pouring of the strength of the Holy Spirit which enables us to walk with strength and conviction through the murky waters of the world that is not truly God-centred.
The Sacrament of Confirmation
It was only in the first part of this century that this pattern of initiation altered in the Catholic Church. Pope Pius X’s efforts to encourage more frequent reception of communion included lowering the age for first communion. Confirmation was left where it was and in the process lost its purpose. Gradually new meanings were attributed to it, including the sacrament of adulthood, becoming a soldier of Christ, and even signing the pledge. So the Baptism – first Communion – Confirmation pattern, so familiar to many, was actually an accident of history!
The sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession, Penance) is the means and the sign that Christ gave us to show His willingness to heal us when, through our own human frailty, we turn in on ourselves and away from Him and our neighbour. This is the sign God has given us that through the words of His priest (“I now absolve you from your sins”) whatever harm we have done to our relationship with our God is healed and we are restored to a state of warm friendship with our Father in heaven.
Just as we need food to sustain us through the long hard climb that we know as life, so in the climb to the spiritual goal we need sustentation. This is the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, the Cup of Eternal Salvation.The Eucharist occupies a unique place as the ‘sacrament of sacraments’: “All the other sacraments are ordered to it as to their end” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1211)
Together at one Altar websiteTogether at One Altar
Together at One Altar is an excellent resource for school aged children to develop their formation in the Eucharist and assist their full active conscious participation in its celebration.
The Paschal Mystery – Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection – is a living reality for Christians.
It is not just an event that happened 2000 years ago; it is the presence of the Risen Jesus, his Spirit and his Kingdom, today and always. The Paschal Mystery is the promise of life for Christians which we receive at Baptism.
The word ‘Paschal’ comes from an ancient Aramaic word, pasha(Hebrew, pesah) meaning ‘Passover’. It refers to the fact that Jews believe God ‘passed over’ the houses of the Jews when the slaying of the firstborn occurred in Egypt. In English, the holiday is known as Passover. Pesach is also the name of the sacrificial offering (a lamb) that was made in the temple on this holiday.
The Gospel of John makes a clear reference to Jesus’ pesah – his passage – from this world to the Father (John 13:1):1
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father.
The Paschal Mystery continues to draw people into union with God. Catholics experience this union in the most profound way when they receive Jesus in Holy Communion. Jesus’ followers come together in unity, share life and receive the spiritual food – Jesus himself in the Eucharist – that gives them the strength and energy to reach out to others in love and compassion.
The Paschal Mystery, therefore, enables Christians to know Jesus in a relationship that grows ever more loving and ever more life-giving.
The priest prepares for mass
In ancient times, ministers of the liturgy wore special garments in the celebration of liturgical rites.
They were fashioned near the end of the Roman era and have changed little over the centuries. This highlights the continuity of tradition within the Church.
The colours, materials and decorations used hold historical and spiritual significance.
As the Priest dresses himself, a prayer is recited for each vestment he puts on. The word ‘vestment’ is simply the Latin for ‘clothing’.
The soutane is also known as a cassock. It is an ankle length robe and comes in a number of styles. It is most commonly black with buttons down the front. Historically is derives from the Roman tunic worn underneath the toga. In Australia, the soutane is little used except for religious ceremonies.
The amice is a white cloth with two long white ribbons attached. The ribbons are used to fasten the garment around the shoulders of the Priest.
ALB AND CINCTURE
The alb is the long white robe worn by Priests and Deacons (The Latin for white is alba.) The alb may be fastened at the waist with a cincture, or belt, woven to look like a rope.
The stole – a long, narrow, scarf-like vestment – is a symbol of the priestly office. The Priest wears it around his neck whenever he is celebrating the Eucharist or any of the other sacraments. The Deacon wears his stole draped diagonally over one shoulder.
The chasuble is the outer garment worn specifically for the celebration of Mass and the colour of the chasuble indicates the liturgical season or feast. The word chasuble comes from the Latin word casula which means a little house. It was the outer garment worn by the Roman nobility. The chasuble is often beautifully decorated with Christian symbols. It is generally flowing in style
Man and woman could wed and through their union produce children without the intervention of the priesthood. But the sacrament of Matrimony is God’s way of blessing a union He has already created and sanctioned. The grace of the sacrament of matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble union.
The priesthood is the vehicle by which God, through His Son, chose to maintain the regular flow of His grace and blessings through the sacraments. The priest, through this sacrament of Holy Orders, offers sacrifice to God (through the Mass); forgives sins (through the sacrament of Reconciliation); heals the sick according to the will of God (through the sacrament of Anointing); welcomes new people into God’s community the Church (through Baptism) and cements with the love of God the union of man and woman in marriage (through the sacrament of Matrimony). Without being too clever about it, one could call the Catholic priesthood the civil service of the Lord. The sacrament is that which guarantees the on-going life of the church – the Body of Christ. Holy Orders – maintains that relationship with God that is the right and privilege of His people.
Anointing of the Sick
This sacrament is now known as the sacrament of Holy Anointing. It used to be known as the sacrament of Extreme Unction because it involved the dying person and the priest in a rite of departure from this life into the next life with God. Now it is available to all who are ill, and is a prayer for healing. It is the sign of a God who has sustained us through life now assisting our transfer from this earthly life to the eternal life with God.