Imagine being a 13th century Norwegian parent who had to bring her baby back to the church for another baptism. Your friends ask, “Why are you having the baby baptized again?” You answer, “Well, the first time our little baby Olaf was baptized with beer. The Pope said it was no good. Apparently baptism by beer is invalid.”
We all know that the seven sacraments have “form and matter.” This is a principle drawing on the metaphysical principles of Aristotle. Let’s take a look at three sacraments as examples:
- The sacrament of baptism consists of matter (water) and form (“I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”)
- With the Holy Eucharist there is matter (wheat bread and grape wine) and the form (“This is my body” and “This is the chalice of my blood”).
- With Confirmation, the matter is chrism with the laying on hands and the form is “I seal you with the sign of the Cross and I confirm you with the Chrism of salvation in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Even more importantly, if someone collapses during a cocktail party and asks for emergency baptism, first put down your martini and only then find a glass of water! You don’t want to confuse yourself.
Let’s open the comments: This is a reminder that the Catholic Church has complicated matters in every age. As a former Protestant, I can say that the great thing about being a Catholic is that we have a living magisterium with a Pope to settle matters. What do you think are the pressing issues of our day that need settling or clarification?