Proof of Baptism is a requirement for Christians celebrating the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church. This is for all Christians, both Catholic and non-Catholic. It is part of the paperwork in the process of marriage preparation and acknowledges the unifying and universality of Baptism that all Christians celebrate. Proof of Baptism in the paperwork world is the most authentic verification that the person or persons, entering into marriage or other sacraments, were in fact baptized. This is all part of the Catholic Church’s record keeping and, in some countries, baptismal certificates are key pieces of information in identifying details for the roots of ancestors.
The Catholic Church keeps very good records for many things but, perhaps most importantly, for the reception of sacraments.
A Baptismal certificate is, in many ways, similar to a driver’s license and proof of Insurance that verify one’s privilege to drive. Many of you are familiar with proof of identity or licensing in your chosen professional fields. However, there are significant differences in the simple verification purpose of a Baptismal certificate and other documents that are often proof of minimal requirements for participation or practice.
For us Catholics, the church of Baptism is the permanent keeper of all sacramental records. As subsequent sacraments are received, the Baptismal record held at the church of Baptism is updated. On the Baptismal certificate, often on the reverse side, are records of reception of First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage and Priesthood as sent from parishes where these sacrament were received. For example on my Baptismal certificate at St. Antoninus Church in Cincinnati, Ohio it is noted that I was ordained a deacon on April 20, 1985 and a priest on May 24, 1986.
Records are maintained by the church of Baptism and the keeping of these records is standard and consistent all over the world, in every parish, in every country. A Baptismal certificate can be obtained from any parish in the world. Baptismal records are always carefully accounted for if a parish closes or merges with another parish, and great care is taken to safely and securely hold Baptismal records in the midst of destruction of a church office through fire or other natural disaster. Holy Family’s sacramental records are kept in a fireproof filing cabinet on the property.
But a certificate of Baptism is just a start. It is verification of an event in the past. In our highly institutionalized Church, it can become simply a record and not a statement of identity or process.
My hope is that the adventure moment that we focus on this weekend at all Masses and this coming Wednesday at our base camp will vault off of the fact that we were baptized – into the world of… Are We Baptized? Terry Nelson-Johnson first introduced many of us to this difference when he preached here at Holy Family a few years ago and he will certainly embellish this notion this weekend and on Wednesday.
I have insisted that for each adventure we do not use church words that often minimize and institutionalize what happens in the grace adventures celebrated and realized in the sacred moments of life. Sacraments are continual illumination of the current of grace that runs through all life. Similar to electricity in our homes, grace is a current that is manifest when we turn on the light or appliance of realization or mediation. I appreciate the Church’s recording of the big Sacramental moments, but I urge and challenge every one of you to identify, articulate and even record the sacramental experiences that you have experienced along the Pilgrimage way as well as, the person or agent of the mediation of that sacrament. These can be recorded in your Passports. Also, consider the statement “Hail___________________, full of grace” to acknowledge sacred dynamics in our midst on a regular basis.
Because of my insistence on non-church language, this adventure will be called DRENCHED, not baptized. As only Terry Nelson-Johnson can do, we will be led pretty far out of the box of the experience of baptism and into the world of being DRENCHED by God’s grace in the pool of all life. This experience will be one more expression of the strong pro-life stance that we advocate here at Holy Family.
The pool is not simply a font in church. The pool is ALL life, and ALL life is sacred. And because of the sacred gift of life that we have been given by God, we should not simply be dipped in life-giving water—we should be DRENCHED with its energy!
See you on Wednesday!