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Baptism Without Parents’ Consent?
Q. I have a great-grandchild who is 9 years old and goes to church with me sometimes. She wants to be baptized, but her parents and grandmother do not want this. Can a child be baptized without her parents’ knowledge?
P.M., via email
A. A similar question was asked by a TCA reader some months ago. Here’s an excerpt from the response given by our TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Can you have the child baptized? Not if his parents object. Even if they do not object, there has to be a reasonable hope that the child will be raised as a Catholic. If his parents do not express an “active objection” to his baptism, and if they allow you or others to raise him in the true faith and bring him to Mass and prepare him for the other sacraments, then go ahead and have him baptized and raise him in the Faith yourself.
Q. I’ve been told that each month of the calendar year has been dedicated to Our Lord or a saint in some specific way. What are the dedications?
C.V., via email
A. Certain designations, varying somewhat, have traditionally been made for a spiritual dedication of each month of the civil calendar. Here’s a list:
January: the Holy Name of Jesus, the Holy Childhood of Jesus
February: The Holy Family, the Sacred Passion of Our Lord
March: St. Joseph
April: the Holy Spirit, the Holy Eucharist
May: the Blessed Virgin Mary
June: the Sacred Heart of Jesus
July: the Most Precious Blood of Jesus
August: the Blessed Sacrament, the Immaculate Heart of Mary
September: Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady
October: the Most Holy Rosary
November: the Holy Souls in Purgatory
December: the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“Prove” It From Scripture?
Q. Whenever I talk to my evangelical Protestant friends about Catholic beliefs, they always throw at me the challenge: “Prove it from Scripture.” Does every Christian belief have to be “proved from Scripture” to be valid?
S.G., via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
The next time you encounter this challenge, give your Protestant friends another challenge. Tell them, “Though your presupposition — that all must be proved from Scripture — is wrong, for the moment I will accept it. Now, prove to me from Scripture that I have to prove to you from Scripture everything we Catholics believe.” It cannot be done. Nowhere does Scripture even intimate that everything the Church teaches has to be proved from Scripture.
Your friends may fall back on the only verse they can find — 2 Timothy 3:16. But what does it say? “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching — for reproof, for correction, and training in holiness.” This verse says nothing about “proving” things from Scripture.
What does “inspired” mean? Orthodox Christians take it to mean that Scripture is the inspired, infallible Word of God. But you can’t prove that from Scripture.
Years ago, when I was a Protestant seminarian, my first professor of New Testament, a world-famous scholar, assured us that Scripture is inspired only in the same sense in which all great literature is inspired. I thought (hoped) he must be wrong, but I knew then I could not prove from Scripture that he was wrong. How does anyone know for certain that Scripture is inspired in the orthodox sense? As I learned much later, only because the Catholic Church tells him so.
You could ask your Protestant friends to prove to you from Scripture that the true Church is where the Word of God is rightly preached and the two sacraments rightly administered. (That’s a common Protestant definition of the church, coming from Martin Luther.) Or prove to you from Scripture the doctrine of the Trinity: God in Three Persons. Or show you where in Scripture they even find the word “Trinity.” They can’t.
Someone once asked G.K. Chesterton what the Bible says about a particular subject. His reply was that the Bible doesn’t “say” anything. You can’t put the Bible in a witness chair, ask it questions and expect to get answers, he said. It’s like any other book in the sense that it has to be interpreted.
Turning from Chesterton, we have to say that leaving that interpretation up to the individual (as in Protestantism) has resulted in the formation of more than 25,000 separate denominations. The number of new denominations grows constantly because of private interpretation.
One more point. Protestants often appeal to something called “the pure word of God” apart from all interpretation. There is no such entity. Every individual interpreter necessarily relies on some tradition for his interpretation. Again, Scripture has to be interpreted.
Who is qualified (indeed, authorized) to make that interpretation? The private individual? Or the Church that Jesus Christ established and to which He entrusted His teaching authority? Tell your friends they have only these two choices.
Q. I recently came across a reference to “Gregorian water” in a liturgical setting. What exactly is that?
M.J., via email
A. “Gregorian water” is a mixture of water with salt (a symbol of health and preservation), ash (humility) and wine (spiritual abundance and joy). This mixture is blessed by a bishop to be used in the rite of consecrating churches and altars (that is, dedicating them exclusively to divine use).
“Gregorian water” is so called because it was prescribed by Pope St. Gregory the Great (c. 540–604) to be used at the consecration of a church. The act of sprinkling with this water is called lustration (from the Latin for “purification”).
For more details about the beautiful and profound ancient rituals involved in consecrating altars and churches, click here and here.
Sistine Chapel Paintings
Q. We visited the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican last October 2007 and saw the paintings by Michelangelo. What material (oil or water) did Michelangelo use for painting the frescos on the ceiling and The Last Judgment on the wall behind the altar?
R.M., via email
A. The celebrated Italian sculptor and painter Michelangelo (1475–1564) painted in the Sistine Chapel primarily using the method called buon fresco (in Italian, literally “good fresco”). In this type of painting, watercolors (pigments mixed with water) are applied to a thin layer of fresh lime mortar or plaster while it’s still wet. No binder (such as oil or egg white) is necessary because the plaster itself functions as the binder. After some hours, the plaster dries, fixing the particles of pigment in place.
Though the matter has been debated by scholars, Michelangelo seems to have used as well, at least in a few details of the ceiling, the a secco technique, in which the watercolors are applied to plaster that has already dried and has been moistened to simulate fresh plaster. In this method, because the pigments don’t become part of the wall (as in buon fresco), the painting is less durable. But a secco would have been useful in places where the artist needed more time to work or sought to make revisions or add details to a figure he had already painted.
By the way, there’s a fabulous new book, gloriously illustrated, that you’ll want to read and enjoy, entitled The Sistine Chapel: A New Vision, by Father Heinrich W. Pfeiffer, S.J. (Abbeville Press, 2007). The author is a professor of art history at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He examines the theology behind the magnificent art of the chapel, showing how it reflects the profound teachings and symbolism of the Church Fathers and the medieval theologians. For details, click here.
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