Did you know they've used the Stanley Cup as a baptismal font?

I didn’t, until blogger (and deacon’s wife!) Kathy Schiffer wrote about it a few days back:

Seven-week-old Alva Felicia Sundstrom, niece of Detroit Red Wings’ right winger Tomas Holmstrom, was baptized in “Lord Stanley” on July 25, 2008, in a private ceremony outside Holmstrom’s hometown of Pitea, in northern Sweden. Robert Sundstrom, who is Holmstrom’s cousin and Alva’s father, said that the two men had been sitting together in the kitchen of Holmstrom’s summer cabin when the idea came up. Arrangements were made; and the only outsiders permitted were the two American security guards who travel with the Cup.

The Canadian Press had this report at the time:

“Tomas came up with the idea when we were sitting in his summer cabin kitchen a week ago,” Sundstrom said. “Me and my wife thought it would be fun to christen our daughter in such a priceless object.”

Googling around, I found the photograph below, which appears to be the event described above (but the date isn’t clear).  Certainly, someone is using the Cup for a font:

I did a little digging, though, and it turns out that wasn’t the first time the Stanley Cup has been used sacramentally.

That dubious distinction — and I do mean dubious — happened nearly a decade earlier:

In 1996, Sylvain Lefebvre of the Colorado Avalanche became the first player to use the Stanley Cup as a baptismal font, as his daughter Alexzandra was baptized in it.

That moment was also captured for posterity, below:

When this news first broke about Holmstrom three years ago, people were understandably furious. Especially hockey fans:

One reader wrote: “I hope the league fines and severely reprimands Holmstrom for abusing the cup in this manner. This to me shows a total lack of respect for the trophy. He should be ashamed. I cannot believe that the cup custodians even allowed this to happen. I am outraged.”

Yeah.  Outrage indeed.  Kathy puts it perfectly:

It was not the repurposed Cup, but the Sacrament of Baptism that was slightly dented in this charade. With the Holy Grail filled to the brim with holy water, it’s hard to imagine that the baby’s parents and godparents were focused on Original Sin, and prayers, and introducing their newborn child to God. No, I’m thinking they were googly-eyed over their daughter’s expensive and highly acclaimed baptismal font.

For what it’s worth: it appears that the rituals involved were not Catholic.

But I can’t imagine that serious-minded Christians of any stripe would look at something like this and think, “You know, that’s a great idea!  Where’s my old bowling trophy?”

This whole gimmick turns something sacred into something worse than profane.  It’s just a laughable stunt.   And a tacky one, at that.

  • DcnDon

    This is sad, but given the prevailing culture in which we live, not terribly surprising.

    It reminds me of a story that a former pastor of our church told of a funeral for a young man killed tragically in a traffic collision. The incident involved excessive alcohol use – another sad reality of current culture. One of the mourners (a friend of the deceased) wanted to salute his friend by placing a six-pack of beer on the casket.

    I don’t believe we can assume anything of the people involved other than that they thought it would be a good idea, in this or in the Stanley Cup incident(s). Among ourselves we can shake our heads and say “What were they thinking?” but perhaps a greater concern could be addressed to the clergy who conducted these rites. They at least should know better – or so I would like to think.

    God bless, (and sometimes, God help us.)

  • Jeff Stevens

    I’m a big hockey fan, I’ve had season tickets to the Washington Capitals on and off through the years, I’ve been a fan since about 1985 or so, which is well over half my life. If I had started earlier, I would dearly love to be a professional hockey player. It’s still the best game to watch live ever.

    But this is totally inappropriate. Items used for sacred purposes should be sacred vessels set aside ONLY for that purpose. We give the Cup great value and great dignity, but it is given that by us; it has no inherent value or dignity. Baptism, however, has an eternal dignity granted by God, and is infinitely greater in every regard than the greatest of sports achievements.

  • Deacon Bill

    It’s not the same thing exactly, of course, but there is a longstanding tradition for sailors to have their children baptized in the ceremonial ship’s bell.

    I guess my point is that it’s not necessarily always an abuse to use something other than a more traditional font.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill
    (Commander, USN, ret.)

  • http://crusader888.blogspot.com/ crusader

    Profane, but at least the infants were baptized at all. Better an ablution in the Stanley Cup than be straddled with Original Sin all your life. Given the dubious intent, though, they should be conditionally baptized as well.

  • Deacon Norb

    Re: crusader #4

    “Given the dubious intent, though, they should be conditionally baptized as well.”

    Roman Catholic liturgical and juridical practice is that Baptisms done using the Triune formulary are valid regardless of the Christian Church doing the baptism; or regardless of the setting; or even regardless of the gender of the person performing the Baptism.

    If that person who was baptized in the Stanley Cup or even the ship’s bell (as Deacon Bill mentioned in #3) were to come forward for RCIA, they would NOT have to be “re-baptized” (although that is a sacramental impossibility anyway) providing some documentation proved that the baptism occurred.

    In my Roman Catholic diocese, although local practice may differ in others, if I have an engaged couple where one of the party is non-Catholic, providing I can document their Baptism I do NOT have to seek prior approval of the Chancery for this wedding to occur in our church.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00442985285647041700 Melody

    I don’t keep up with sports very much, and wouldn’t have known the Stanley Cup from a hole in the ground. Just looking at the picture, without knowing anything else, I would have thought, “What a lovely portable font, looks rather traditional in a Brit or Euro sort of way.” I agree that it was improper to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism in such a secular container. But someone could design a similar vessel, meant for ecclesial use; it would look better than some I’ve seen.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    What Norb said. A baptism is a baptism is a baptism — if done correctly.

    Periodically, we have families come forward who had emergency baptisms for a baby in a hospital, and they want to have a “do-over” with family and friends. If the child was baptized correctly, using the Trinitarian formula (“in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”), we can’t do that. The deed has already been done, and can’t be done over. What we will do, however, is say the prayers of annointing, and annoint the child with oil and chrism (which in emergency situations is rarely, if ever, done.)

    As for what Bill said about the ship’s bell: the apostles, after all, were men of the sea, and Christ himself was baptized in the Jordan, in waters that flow from the Sea of Galilee. There’s a certain symbolism and poetry to using a ship’s bell.

    A hockey trophy? Not so much.

  • Holly Hansen

    For crying out loud the kids were baptized ! Baptism in the triume name is baptism. The RC church has agreements with many protestants and orthodox on the validity of baptism. Jesus and many other folks for that matter were baptized in a river in which animals and people no doubt fouled the water. By the way the rituals of baptism the pouring of the water three times, annointing with oil and giving of a candle are common across denominational lines.
    I’ve seen worst fonts than that trophy. I say WELCOME to those new Christian souls.

  • http://balancingtheledger.blogspot.com/ Joe Cleary

    When the font becomes the story ( no matter if the fanciest marble set up in a grand church or a bathtub or even the Stanley Cup) then we missed the point of baptism.

  • Jason O’Cannon

    Did anybody notice that the “ministers” of both of these “baptisms” just “happened” to appear to be female?

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Jason, kindly refrain from “scare quotes.”

    As weird as they were, odds are that these baptisms were probably valid and would be recognized as such by the Catholic Church.

    Under certain circumstances, for the right reasons, a baptism in a sink by an atheist would also be valid.

    Dcn. G.

  • mpa

    Deacon, I suppose I must defer to your judgment that this was an outrage.

    But if the Ethiopian eunuch was validly baptised in a mud-puddle, what makes the Stanley Cup worse?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00442985285647041700 Melody

    I was taught that a lay man or women could baptize in a case of emergency. My dad’s infant sister (who was born seriously ill and only lived a day) was baptized by a Protestant nurse who knew that my grandmother would want that. Grandma told that story, and said she would always be grateful to that nurse.

  • http://www.stjospar.org Edward B. Connolly

    Looking at the photographs of the two baptisms, I entertain doubts that the Sacrament of Baptism was validly conferred. (And, of course, my doubts entertain me.)
    Even if the correct intention was in place and even if the correct Trinitarian formula was used, it appears that there was a mere touching of the foreheads of the children with water. If Baptism is administered by infusion (as opposed to immersion), the requirement is that the water flow, i.e. that it be poured. If, in their later years, these children ever sought to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, I would suggest (even insist) that they allow me to baptize them conditionally.

  • JudyAnn

    From the two pictures in the article, this was not a Catholic Baptism as the presiders were women. Protestants do not understand Sacrament as Roman Catholics. It is sad indeed when a Sacrament takes place out of a Church building (unless of course by necessity). To make a deliberate decision to choose the profane over the sacred is a sad commentary on religion practice and belief in the sacred.

  • Deacon Norb

    Re: Jason #10

    You must not have read my posting #5. Let me repeat the last clause in my first paragraph:

    “or even regardless of the gender of the person performing the Baptism.”

  • Deacon Bill

    Dear JudyAnn,

    To be clear: official Catholic teaching is that baptism is validly conferred when flowing water is used along with the Trinitarian formula. Period. We recognize all such baptisms.

    To take this to an extreme example: a nurse who is an atheist, or a Buddhist, or Jain, or Lutheran, who knows that the parents of a child who is in danger of death would want their child to be baptized, could do so by pouring water over the infant’s head while invoking the Trinitarian formula. We Catholics would recognize such a baptism as both valid and licit.

    If the baby were to survive, she could be brought to the parish church where the local deacon or presbyter would “supply the ceremonies” normally done at a baptism when done in church: the anointings, for example, along with the presentation of the white garment and baptismal ceremony.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  • Lank

    Disgusting and blasphemous, another example of Western culture run amok.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    MPA…

    An earlier commenter put it perfectly. Doing this sacrament in the Stanley Cup turned attention away from the child and the sacrament and put it squarely on the trophy.

    Dcn. G.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Edward…

    You’ve got to be kidding.

    It’s impossible to tell at what point in the ceremony those pictures were taken. They may have been just before, or just after, the pouring of water. We don’t know. All we know is that they used the world’s most famous hockey trophy for a font. ‘Nuff said.

    Dcn. G.

  • John B.

    Some of these comments seem a little hyperbolic. No reason to assume the trophy was the entire focus of the sacrament. All we can assume is that the parents desired baptism for their child AND thought it would be nice to use the large silver bowl-type trophy that was important to them. It’s even possible there were only a few family members present.
    In my own parish during Easter season we regularly use a large plastic garden pond liner from Menards and very ordinary glass pitchers (I suspect they might be plastic too). I‘ve even seen those little plastic holy water bottles used for a baptism. While the sacrament itself is sacred, I’ve never considered the particular “equipment” so, in the way the chalice and ciboria are. Sometimes I think we need to tone down our “disgust.”

  • HMS

    Ed and Greg:

    I think there just might be in some Christian churches a tradition of baptizing by either by sprinkling the water on the forehead or by touching the forehead with moistened fingers.

  • HMS

    Correction:

    Ed and Greg:

    I think there just might be in some Christian churches a tradition of baptizing by either by sprinkling the water on the head or by touching the head with moistened finger(s).

  • JudyAnn

    Yes, women and other denominations can baptise in an emergency. However, this was not an emergency. I think the problem is that we are assuming that this was a Catholic baptism. If it were a Catholic baptism, the woman baptising would not be in clerical dress unless it were an emergency.
    I suppose I again have to ask why the Stanley Cup versus at the Baptismal font. What is the point being made?

  • Rudy

    Sacraments work despite the worthiness of the person performing them, as long as that person and those participating do it at a minimum with the intention to do “as the Church does” and in the case of baptism using the trinitarian formula “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

    Hopefully the parents have the right disposition of acting with faith in the name of the infant and their wish is for that child to grow in faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church (whatever their idea of Church, I guess).

    Unfortunately baptism has become a cultural custom instead of the rite of entrance into that relationship with Christ and His Church. Someone said that many Catholics go to Church four times in their life, the first time they get wet, the second time they get oily, the third time they get rice thrown upon them and the last time they are covered with earth.

  • Brenda

    I agree. Profane.

  • Jireh

    Infant baptism ?

    In ACTS 10 , the gospel is preached by Peter in Cornelius’s house. He heard it , all that were there heard it , they all believed it and the Holy Spirit fell and they were all baptized.
    In ACTS 16 , the Philipian jailer heard Paul’s gospel presentation and all heard and were baptized.
    ACTS 18 , Crispus and his entire household believed and were baptized.
    In all these accounts they : all hear , believe , all recieve the Holy Spirit and they are all baptized.
    That ” excludes ” infants because infants can’t hear and believe !!!

  • naturgesetz

    Acts 16:33 “Then he and all his family were baptized at once.” It doesn’t say, except the infants.

    Similarly, the accounts concerning Cornelius and Crispus do not explicitly exclude infants.

    The “Apostolic Tradition,” a document which gives evidence of the practice of the early Church says at one point in the prescriptions for baptism, “And first baptize the little ones; if they can speak for themselves, they shall do so; if not, their parents or other relatives shall speak for them.”

  • Curt

    @Jireh
    Just a few of the verses at ScriptureCatholic.com on the subject.

    Mark 10:14 – Jesus says to let the children come to Him for the kingdom of God also belongs to them. Jesus says nothing about being too young to come into the kingdom of God.

    Mark 16:16 – Jesus says to the crowd, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” But in reference to the same people, Jesus immediately follows with “He who does not believe will be condemned.” This demonstrates that one can be baptized and still not be a believer. This disproves the Protestant argument that one must be a believer to be baptized. There is nothing in the Bible about a “believer’s baptism.”

    Gen. 17:12, Lev. 12:3 – these texts show the circumcision of eight-day old babies as the way of entering into the Old Covenant – Col 2:11-12 – however, baptism is the new “circumcision” for all people of the New Covenant. Therefore, baptism is for babies as well as adults. God did not make His new Covenant narrower than the old Covenant. To the contrary, He made it wider, for both Jews and Gentiles, infants and adults.

    Acts 16:15 – Paul baptized Lydia and her entire household. The word “household” comes from the Greek word “oikos” which is a household that includes infants and children.

    Acts 16:15 – further, Paul baptizes the household based on Lydia’s faith, not the faith of the members of the household. This demonstrates that parents can present their children for baptism based on the parents’ faith, not the children’s faith.

    Acts 16:30-33 – it was only the adults who were candidates for baptism that had to profess a belief in Jesus. This is consistent with the Church’s practice of instructing catechumens before baptism. But this verse does not support a “believer’s baptism” requirement for everyone. See Acts 16:15,33. The earlier one comes to baptism, the better. For those who come to baptism as adults, the Church has always required them to profess their belief in Christ. For babies who come to baptism, the Church has always required the parents to profess the belief in Christ on behalf of the baby. But there is nothing in the Scriptures about a requirement for ALL baptism candidates to profess their own belief in Christ (because the Church has baptized babies for 2,000 years).

    Acts 16:33 – Paul baptized the jailer (an adult) and his entire household (which had to include children). Baptism is never limited to adults and those of the age of reason. See also Luke 19:9; John 4:53; Acts 11:14; 1 Cor. 1:16; and 1 Tim. 3:12; Gen. 31:41; 36:6; 41:51; Joshua 24:15; 2 Sam. 7:11, 1 Chron. 10:6 which shows “oikos” generally includes children.

  • Jim

    @ Curt

    As i understand it , RCC teaches that water cleanses a baby from original sin and results in regeneration. There is nothing in the NT about babies being baptized. It isn’t commanded , it is just not there.
    MATT 18 : 3 talks about ” believers ” and not babies . You have to become like a little child to get into the kingdom. A child has no acheivements , no accomplishments etc.
    MATT 19 & MARK 10 ; Jesus blessed them , HE didn’t baptize them. Jesus just loved and especially cares for these little one who are too young to either reject or accept the truth.
    Children are precious to GOD and HE takes care of them.
    He blessed them and that’s all HE did.


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