Q. My daughter is now 17 years old. When she was baptized as an infant, I asked my brother and his wife to be her godparents. My brother was a practicing Catholic, but it never occurred to me at the time that he had never received the sacrament of confirmation, which — I have learned since then — is required of a baptismal sponsor.
His wife is a convert to Catholicism and entered the church during the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) ceremony, at which she would have been confirmed. But I’m not sure whether that took place before or after my daughter’s baptism.
So my concern — and I know it’s pretty late to be thinking about it now — is whether my daughter was truly baptized, since it may be that neither one of her godparents had been confirmed at the time. (Virginia)
A. The church’s Code of Canon Law (in No. 874, Section 3) stipulates that a sponsor for baptism must “be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on.”
But your question really is, how does that requirement affect the validity of the sacrament, and here’s a clue to the answer: When an adult convert is being received into full communion with the Catholic Church, how do we determine whether he or she may have been already validly baptized?
The essential requirements are three: water must have been used (by pouring or immersion); the correct formula must have been used by the minister (“I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”); and the minister must have had the proper intention (to baptize the person into full communion with the church.)
In an emergency situation, when a mother, for example, baptizes a newborn who is in danger of death, that baptism “counts,” even without a sponsor.
So you needn’t worry: Your daughter is validly baptized, fully a member of the Catholic Church. And here’s a rule of thumb when such anxieties occur: Until you can get an “official” answer, relax and ask yourself this question, “What does God think?”
Seventeen years ago, you wanted your daughter baptized, and the priest did, too. That was probably good enough for God.
Q. What is the church’s official position on the practice of the communicant’s dipping the host into the chalice of precious blood before receiving Communion? It would seem like a good idea, especially if the communicant has a cold or other flu-like symptoms. I recently watched on EWTN a Mass at St. Peter’s in Vatican City, and it looked as though several cardinals were receiving Communion this way, by intinction. (Terre Haute, Indiana)
A. The practice you describe — with the communicants themselves dipping the host into the precious blood — is not allowed in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. When the practice of intinction is used, it is governed by strict conditions.
As the General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides, in No. 287, “each communicant, holding a Communion plate under the mouth, approaches the priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, with a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says, the body and blood of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, receives the sacrament in the mouth from the priest and then withdraws.”
The reasons for these careful conditions are two-fold: first, reverence for the sacred species in safeguarding against spillage and, second, to honor the fact that the communicants are in fact receiving the Eucharist rather than administering it to themselves.
As for the cardinals you saw on television receiving by intinction, as concelebrants they were permitted to self-communicate.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.