Programme on Baptism: Overview Because Baptism is a family affair, these four sessions are designed for small groups. Parents, godparents and those members of the family who care to come along, are invited to share in this preparation experience.
Session One: New Life!
This recalls the birth of the child with all the emotions and experiences of giving New Life. Beginning from this natural birth, we explore how the pouring of Baptismal Water over the child brings New life in Christ.
Session Two: Constant Care
We note the loving concern of parents for their baby and the support others give in this constant care. We explore the connection between the anointing with oil and the nurturing of the child’s faith by the parents and the community of the church.
Session Three: Child of the Light
This session looks ahead to the ongoing development of the child both in personality and in faith. We look at the meaning of the Baptismal Candle and its connection with Easter and the Resurrection. ‘Sharing faith is like sharing light’
Session Four: A Walk Through the Baptismal Ceremony This session takes place in the church. It is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Baptism and at the same time to rehearse the ceremony.
A Parish Team? Baptism is not only a matter for the family but for the whole parish. In some parishes the parents enjoy the support of the worshipping community through the presence of a small group of parishioners who might be called Faith Friends. Faith Friends make a Team with the parish priest. They may personally deliver a leaflet outlining the programme to parents who have requested baptism, so introducing themselves and their supportive role. They then join the parents at the four preparation sessions and help to present this programme.
Each family might also have an individual session with a Faith Friend to discuss the role of godparents etc. as well as practical details’
1 Parents’ session
Background ‘Confirmation’ - what does it mean? For the word ‘confirm’ the dictionary offers: Prove to be valid; Make more definite; Strengthen. An every-day use of the word might come if we place an order for goods by telephone. We may then be requested to ‘confirm that order in writing’.
What does this Sacrament Confirm? The answer is: Baptism!
A person who wishes to receive Holy Communion must first of all be Baptised. From the first century until the twentieth century that Baptism had to be confirmed before the person could receive the Eucharist. Then something occurred which set aside that order. Early in the twentieth century, Pope Pius X (1903 - 1914) encouraged people to receive the Blessed Sacrament frequently. (Before his time people were only allowed to receive Holy Communion a few times in a year.) One of his decisions was to allow young children, aged seven or eight, to receive the Sacrament. Until that time Confirmation and Eucharist were an important part of a young person introduction to adulthood. In all this work to change the attitude of the whole church towards the reception of Communion, the Sacrament of Confirmation was left behind. That situation has now been corrected and Confirmation can now be put back into its traditional place - in preparation for First Communion. But Confirmation in preparation for adulthood has also significance. It gives a young person an opportunity to take on Baptism, personally, and discover ways of living out the Baptismal Promises through Christ-like service. This programme offers preparation material for children of different ages: 7-8 year olds; 11-12 year olds; older teenagers. (There are only a few suggestions for this last group. The material could also be used for Retreat days for teenagers who are already Confirmed.) In all centuries, the Sacrament of Confirmation not only confirmed that a Baptism had taken place, the person receiving it also confirmed that he/she was living an active Christian life in accordance with their Baptismal Promises.
Confirmation links Baptism and Holy Communion
1 Parents’ session
Demonstration of central action in Baptism – pouring of water
Water as a symbol of God & also of God’s action in Baptism Display of Pictures to awaken a range of personal responses in parents:
water refreshes; water is powerful/uncontrollable; water is necessary for life.
Reminder of Baptism Water poured on each person’s hands while special prayer is said.
This is even more true of God Water is a symbol of God!
The arrangement of the Water section shows the method
that is followed, in different ways, throughout this progamme: 1. A brief introduction highlights the central point; 2. Clear, focussed material (eg. pictures) is discussed in small groups & responses are recorded on central flipchart.
2 (Possible accompanying music:
‘O Living Water, refresh my soul’)
3.Actions speak louder than words A short, memorable experience is offered to stimulate personal commitment.
Confirmation: Overview Light as a symbol of God A Sense of Darkness. In small groups, stories are exchanged about a power cut or being lost in the country at night etc. A story from each group is then shared aloud with everyone. Quietly, everyone is asked to consider the possibility of complete darkness in our planet – if we were cut off from the sun. Responses are collected on flipchart Another quiet moment while we consider Death. What is your belief? Total darkness? Or the light of Eternal Life? If you believe in eternal life then you have no fear of eternal darkness - God is Light
The Paschal Candle is introduced by the priest Then the hall is put in darkness and that piece of the Holy Saturday liturgy is re-enacted ‘The light of Christ!’
Light as a symbol of the Baptised
‘Thanks be to God!’
‘You are the light of the world’
Symbolism of individual Baptismal candles explained - acceptance of role of the Baptised.
Activity Rehearsal in church for handing over Baptismal candles to the children in Session 2
Note The third and final session is focussed on Chrism and the Confirmation Ceremony.
2. Family session
The Relationship between Baptism & Confirmation
1. Watching a Baptism (DVD) The use of Water, light and Chrism in the Baptismal Ceremony
Accepting some responsibility for living & behaving as Baptised Christians.
3. Family session
Seeing some of the oils that might be added to olive oil to make chrism.
Parent blessing her daughter with â€˜home-made chrismâ€™ they have made together.
Overview Family Faith 1st Communion Programme Plan
Family preparation for the Sacrament of the Eucharist:
How the Mass began
This introductory session begins with a short practical experience of a Passover meal for all the family. Then the children come out to the front as the Disciples at the Last Supper and learn how the Passover was changed by Christ into the Mass.
Reading the Signs
This Parents’ Session is designed to give adults the time and the ‘tools’ to explore the shape of the Mass and the details in each section of it. That should help them to be confident in guiding their children’s responses in Session Three.
Practising the Signs
The actions of the Priest become the means by which the families focus their attention on each step of the Lituurgy of the Eucharist. The actions are practised in the hall and then followed reverently round the altar in the church.
Session Four To Live Like Christ After 1st Communion
To demonstrate that the Eucharist leads to ongoing Christian living, First Communicants and their families are invited back to a Celebration Session at which they will be presented with the Gospel for that year.
Families are also introduced to ongoing possibilities such as: Acting out Gospel Scenes;
Becoming part of regular services related to the Mass;
Considering how they might share services to others, at home and abroad.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
The forgiveness of sin through the ministry of the church has a long and checkered history.
St Peter told his audience at Pentecost, ‘You must repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’. For more than a century after that, the sacrament of Baptism held a singular place in the remission of sins. Then, around the year 150 when infant Baptism was common, writers began to speak of the church allowing a separate Rite of Reconciliation. This was seen as a second and final chance to begin again, and so could only be received once in a lifetime. Gradually both a lengthy period of preparation and severe penance were demanded of those who asked for this sacrament. This first version of Canonical Reconciliation was concerned with sins against the community. The greatest of these were murder, adultery and apostasy. (Awareness of social sin is gradually coming back as we begin to see that structural injustice across the world concerns us as Christians and requires our repentance.) Public penance for public sin gradually fell into disuse. On the one hand, it was too severe for most people, on the other, it did not address the common awareness of failing to live up to the grace of Baptism. It was the Celtic Monks in the West who tackled that problem. There was a pagan custom of having ‘a friend who reads your heart’ and could be consulted about faults and their correction. This idea was taken over particularly in Ireland where Christianity was centred on a monastic way of life. Monks and nuns would confide in a ‘soul-friend’ - not necessarily a priest. There are many beautiful examples of this custom. Across the whole of Europe, lay people who were concerned about their relationship with God and with those closest to them, adopted this practice. It evolved into a one-to-one Rite of Reconciliation as people confided in their parish priest. The emphasis here was not reconciliation with the communiy but personal ‘wholeness’. This was an important development and is the aspect that is most commonly understood today. Sadly, the system became rigid. The personal interview, which had included advice and spiritual direction, began to rely on stereotyped ‘penances’. A ‘tally’ system was introduced in which sins were to be named in precise categories and matched by specific penances. Once again, penances were severe, such as pilgrimages or long fasts, but these became so impossible to fulfil that they were replaced by the recitation of certain prayers. Confessing sins and doing penances seemed so important that these words became names for the sacrament.
A requirement to list our sins and keep a score
is far removed from God’s free gift of forgiveness. That became clear with the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Those two phrases do not represent the meaning of the sacrament that returns us to a right relationship with God, the world and ourselves.
Today this second sacrament of forgiveness - Baptism for adults is the first is called, ‘Reconciliation’.
We are very aware of the forgiveness poured out on us by Christ. But the Old Testament too has examples of God’s desire to forgive us – if we would only ask! Hosea quotes God as saying to the wrongdoer;
Provide yourself with words and come!
(Hosea Cht. 14 )
Reading the Sacramental Signs A sacrament is: ‘an outward sign of inward grace.’ A sign gives a message that is generally understood without having to be explained. We all know that clean running water is necessary for life.We know that bread sustains life. So the signs of water in Baptism and bread in Eucharist ‘speak’ their message naturally. What are the signs in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and how do they ‘speak’ to us? The name used for the sacrament today, Reconciliation, is itself a sign. The word reconcile comes from the Latin, to call together again.
This sacrament is, centrally, about coming closer to God - not about sin and guilt. If people were not brought up to see it like this they might need a lot of convincing. The everyday processes of ‘making-up’ within a family offers a first step towards understanding. What do we do at home? There is no set formula for reconciliation in the family. There is rarely even a clear statement of fault and forgiveness. So what is the basic requirement? We try, in some way, to re-establish a friendly relationship. We do this by communication, often in action rather than words, though words may be included. Each family has its own pattern in which particular words and gestures signify acknowledgement of fault and forgiveness. A common example is the cup of tea offered in appeasement! Communication has to be two-way. Both the person seeking forgiveness and the one giving it have to approach the other; they have to signify that they wish to re-establish their relationship. That is, the offered tea must be accepted if reconciliation is to be achieved. Not everything can be put right so simply. Some situations need a great deal of talking out. A partner who has been unfaithful in marriage cannot put things right by a friendly cup of tea! A real desire not to offend again has to be shown. This is all very like the sacrament. The signs in the Sacrament of Reconciliation are made up of words and gestures. The first sign is made with our feet - we come! This gesture is in itself a request for forgiveness. Then we find whatever words we can to express our sorrow and desire to change for the better.
(We have, in the past, often tied ourselves in knots with words, instead of focusing on the relationship with God that we are asking to have re-established.)
The priest, representing God, offers signs in response: First, the priest listens and raises his hand in a gesture of forgiveness. Then, speaking formally in the name of the church, he says that the person is absolved from sin and has returned to a right relationship with God. Books and learned papers can clarify the theology of Reconciliation for us. The experience of the sacrament is something else! These sessions are aimed at people’s hearts and imaginations, as well as their minds. Some preparation and work are involved in bringing the session alive. 2
The goal is liberating personal experience of the free & loving forgiveness of God. That is worth the effort - even for one adult or child!