Quote of the day

“Good afternoon, Deacon.  We want to have our grandson baptized.  He’s 10-years-old.  What are the rules?  Does he have to have received First Communion first?”

– A question posed to Your Humble Blogger in a phone call this afternoon


  1. So many targets. Where to begin?

    1. What’s up with the parents?
    2. What’s been going on for 10 years?
    3. What went wrong with the catechesis of the grandparents?
    4. Is anybody going to church?
    5. If not, why?
    6. If yes, what’s going on there?

  2. And oh, yeah:

    7. Is there a reasonable expectation that the child will be brought up in the Faith?

  3. Midwestlady says:

    What are the rules? LOL

    You might want to ask the parents why, exactly, they called the parish. I mean gently and in person. Why are they concerned now? What’s going on?

  4. Art ND'76 says:

    My initial reaction: “Oh my!!”

  5. Catechetical Facepalm.

  6. Midwestlady says:

    I mean, there are all kinds of possibilities with a 10-year old that may or may not have anything to do with whether “junior” wants to be Catholic or would practice the Catholic faith, or even knows what it is.

    I mean, 10-years old is about the age of social religious awakening, but also the awakening of a lot of other ideas and impulses, many of them social, psychological & sexual. Perhaps his parents are trying to fend off junior’s interest in being a mormon/jew/muslim/fill in the blank like his buddy from school, and there is a parent-child battle going on that you don’t know about. Or, perhaps the parents caught junior in the clutches of a little girl or worse and this is a move to stave off perceived disaster on the part of the parents. Or perhaps junior saw a Bing Crosby movie. Or grandma’s coming to town from far away. OR it could mean that the family is returning to practice? I mean the possibilities are endless.

    Gently asking, probing and helping the family to figure out if they can regularize in a kind way, or not, might be the best strategy here. If not, then encouraging some gentle growth might be a good thing too. I mean this is pretty strange for a Wednesday afternoon phone call out of the blue.

  7. Midwestlady says:

    All you astonished folks: you’d be surprised how many people just get in line for everything and are totally oblivious to all the “rules.” LOL. We have tourists all the time and at Christmas, the place looks like Grand Central Station. All those people are not Catholic, not even lapsed Catholics, many of them. They’re curious, somewhat needy, and they don’t know any better.

  8. Midwestlady says:

    BTW, in the US where we have this little lockstep thing in Holy Communion lines with ushers and everyone going up etc, it pretty much guarantees that anyone who doesn’t know much about the practice of Catholicism is going to get into the Holy Communion line and receive. This isn’t so much the case in Europe and Canada, but it is here. We don’t post or announce that they shouldn’t, so they get caught up in the tide of traffic and they do.

  9. Romulus says:

    pretty strange for a Wednesday afternoon phone call out of the blue.

    I’ll say. We better be getting some updates/follow-through from the Humble Blogger. He can’t just drop these bombs and walk away.

    Next phone call, I’m imagining: “I want to be married at your church. Does my divorce have to be final first?”

  10. Romulus says:

    Christmas is a popular day for First Communions.

  11. Midwestlady says:

    Official or unofficial, Romulus?

  12. Chris B says:

    D’oh !

  13. Midwestlady says:


  14. Romulus says:

    They’re not recorded, if that’s what you mean. ;-)

  15. Midwestlady says:

    Well, he probably gets that call on an occasional basis, too, but hopefully not from the same family. :o

  16. Romulus says:

    Weddings are another.

  17. Midwestlady says:

    Yes, there’s a lot of that that goes on too. No one really keeps track. That’s the great open secret of the Catholic church. We have blind spots that you could drive mac-trucks though.

    Some people just don’t comprehend that; some people only comprehend that; some people comprehend it on some level, but on another level are simultaneously concerned about the “rules,” but for a variety of different reasons. Many pew Catholics pretend that they don’t comprehend that, even though they do because it’s too dangerous to accept; some of them are outraged by the fact that they do comprehend that, but some are just oblivious to everything concerning it. The Catholic church is probably the most interesting mess I’ve ever seen.

  18. I’m assuming the grandparent is trying to do the proper thing for his grandson. He humbled himself to ask for direction in doing so. There is no shame in his ignorance, at least from persons unaware of his personal story.

    My opinion is that the call should not have been posted by Deacon Greg. It left the grandparent open to ridicule by members of the church whose rules he is asking about, and whose rules he intimates he wants to follow.

  19. Adrienne K says:

    #7 should actually be is there a “well-founded hope”. (Canon 868-1-2) This is a pretty low bar. If the family is asking for the sacrament, that hope exists. Baptism should not be used as either a reward or a punishment for how the family has lived their lives. Yes, there needs to be a standard but treating the family with hospitality and dignity will far more greatly encourage the well-founded hope than wagging a finger in their faces.

    I agree that there are often things said in our parishes that make me shake my head, but serving as a Baptism catechist has taught me to be far less judging of the families that come to my program and find the opportunity to welcome them and catechize them. I often stop and say to the families: “My goal is not to wag my finger but to open my arms in welcome… how am I doing?”

    And yes, I’ve had people come up to me later and say “You know, we weren’t really attending church before we came to get our child baptized, but after going through your classes, we’re coming back. Thank you.” “Because Grandma wants us to baptize our child” is a valid answer in our classes because sometimes the Holy Spirit uses grandmothers to open doors and bring them into our team’s welcoming arms.

  20. Midwestlady says:


    Yes, I hope the person who called does not find this blog and make the connection between the call and this thread. I hope also that the blog owner glossed over details well enough to obscure the real call.

    From my own experience as an ex-teacher, it’s okay to talk about a phenomenon in teaching, for instance, without revealing the identity of the place or the person so closely that anyone could ever find out who it was. Understanding what you do as a teacher is very, very important and needs to be shared, analyzed, talked about and improved. But people shouldn’t be embarrassed or afraid to come for help, thinking that teachers will talk about them personally. They generally don’t because that’s not the point of talking about teaching experiences.

    And I would assume with quite a bit of confidence, that the same is true in this case of clerical experiences.

  21. Romulus says:

    I don’t think anyone on this thread is ridiculing the grandparents or suggesting that the child not be given the sacrament. The Deacon can speak for himself; my guess is that he sees the incident as illustrative of certain conditions needing attention — IMO attributable far more to the hierarchy over the past half-century, than to the ordinary faithful left largely to figure it out on their own.

  22. CharityPlease says:

    Perhaps the grandparents were nervous when they called. Maybe they meant confirmation and not baptism.
    Maybe they are not fully informed on the Catholic faith and think that an older child would need to understand WHY he was getting baptized.
    I still vote for getting nervous and mixed up though.

  23. I field a lot of calls that, in some circumstances would be open to snickers, guffaws, and even ridicule like what goes on in the blogosphere. I’ve chosen never to post them online or even discuss them with anyone else unless I get the express permission of the person involved.

    That said, grandparents who have not adopted this lad have turned this thing into a matter of family politics. Encourage church attendance. Inquire about the parents. Once Mom and Dad are on board, this situation has hope. If the boy has a religious sensibility, there’s a lot of hope.

  24. RomCath says:

    A 10 year old child would need some catechesis on the Sacraments and the faith before he is baptized. Most children have already received First Communion by age 8 so this child is a bit behind. Does the child want to be baptized?
    The biggest concern is about the parents? Where are they? Do they want the child baptized or have they given the grandparent permission to pursue it?

  25. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    FWIW, my response was brief:

    “Is there some reason why the parents aren’t calling me?” (She explained that she was the grandmother and was trying to help them out.) “Okay,” I said. “Normally, I only talk to the parents about baptisms, since they are the ones responsible. But here’s what you need to know, and you can pass it on. Because the child is 10, he will have to go through RCIC, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children. You should call the Director of Religious Education at the parish and he can explain what’s involved. Secondly, baptism is the foundational sacrament of the Church. You can’t receive any other sacrament, including First Communion, without first being baptized.” She thanked me and said goodbye. End of story.

  26. Midwestlady says:

    This could very well be. Remember that not everyone is all that used to talking about these things every day, and maybe they were just nervous. The next step of course is to see whoever called in person and talk a little tentatively about what motivated the call. Someone is worried about something or they wouldn’t have taken out the time to call the parish and speak to a deacon, which may be an unusual thing for them to do. It’d be a good idea to find out what going on the best you can, gently.

  27. Midwestlady says:

    That’s correct, but pretty crisp. Is that a standard procedure? I mean, technically, yes, you can’t baptize a minor child without the consent of the parents, I would think.

  28. Romulus says:

    I know a man who was baptized as a boy by a traveling preacher in the back of a barbershop — as I recall, at the instigation of a grandparent. The boy’s Catholic mother had had a falling out with her parish priest after having married a divorced man. PP had refused to baptize the boy as an infant, perhaps lacking confidence in his chances for a Catholic upbringing. Old story of principles, hard-heartedness, and the jams people get themselves and others into. The boy — now a man of mature years — was conditionally baptized via RCIA. His mother reconciled with the Church before her death. Funny thing is, though not fully initiated into the Church till late in life, many who knew him casually or by reputation had always assumed he was Catholic.

  29. To be clear, there is no such thing as RCIC. When an inquirer is of the age of reason, the only channel is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Adaptations are made for children, teens, and particular persons. Some of those adaptations include peer groups, as the rite encourages. Such a journey probably should take a year, but not less.

  30. Midwestlady says:

    These kinds of things happen to converts too. The Church accepts baptisms from other churches as its own, providing that they use the same form and structure, aka water on the head and “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” in the verbal formula.

    Many are the stories where the Holy Spirit came into a person’s soul via baptism-because that’s what baptism does-and then the person grows into it later. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way, but sometimes it does. But then, not all Catholic baptisms end up producing a Catholic either. Pretty far from it actually.

  31. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    To be clear, there is no such thing as RCIC.

    Try telling that to DREs in my neck of the woods.

    Anyway, it requires a lot more prep — and it sounds like the parents (or grandparents) need catechizing, as well.


  32. Deacon Steve says:

    For Children going through RCIA most parishes have the parents go through the process with them. Our program is 2 years for the children. It cannot be done without parental consent. I have had grandparents come to me about baptizing their grandchildren and have had to tell them the parents must make the request and be ok with it unless they as grandparents have legal custody. I tell the gandparents to take the children to mass, do catechesis with them, help them learn the faith. Once they are over the age of 7 the children can request to be baptized.

  33. Midwestlady says:

    But Romulus,
    The days are over when a person can just get baptized like that without parents getting upset. People are strange about things like this nowadays. We really have no idea what’s going on at home. It might be best for this boy to wait til 18, and have himself baptized if he’s still interested.

    I mean, one of the things, we were talking about on this very blog this last week, was the disparity between the generations in terms of religious commitment and understanding. It played a key factor in both the Camden study and the Buffalo report, and I think that’s because it’s important all over the USA. The parents could possibly have a disagreement with the grandparents going on and if the church steps in, it could be unpleasant, unless the parents are on board.

  34. Midwestlady says:

    I think that’s what I’ve heard them doing around here too. This is done in the case of whole families coming into the Catholic church together as a group.

  35. My favorite deacon and I get this all of the time. According to the RCIA, children who have reached the age of reason (usually age 7) are to receive instruction and receive all three sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. Seven children were baptized, confirmed, and received Eucharist at our Easter Vigil this year.

    As a grandparent I understand where the concerned grandparents were coming from. At least they haven’t secretly baptized the child. It happens.

  36. Romulus says:

    Well I agree, of course. Grandparents can’t hijack a grandchild into baptism against a parent’s wishes. At least not in canon law. An exception seems to apply to infants in danger of death, who can be baptized willy-nilly.

    I am not so confident about the prudence of the Church continuing to accept baptism from other Christian communities, given the not uncommon fad of baptisms using non-Trinitarian formulas. This has arisen in isolated incidents even in Catholic settings. It’s a real mess.

  37. Midwestlady says:

    I’m going to be perfectly honest here: There may be an elderly lady who doesn’t feel she was listened to, and that may be the biggest problem coming out of this whole thing. I mean, the unexplained thing is why *she* called the office. She may be the one Catholic you have out of this whole thing, and she may be the only one you’re every going to get. I’m concerned about her.

  38. Joey’s baptism:


    AITF, Season 6, Episode 22 (2/23/1976).

  39. It’s a Teachable Moment, folks, not a round of Let’s Pile On the Ignorant. More people in the pews than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio, are as uninformed about “the rules” and how this works as these folks are, even when they’ve had good catechesis at some point in their lives. (Try a pop quiz sometime.) There are all kinds of variables here that can’t be neatly dismissed or ridiculed.

    Also, Baptism by Grandparent While Bathing the Baby is so prevalent, and has been for eons, that one priest I know once said “We pretty much figure any baptism of a child over the age of 6 months is conditional.”

  40. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I’m going to be perfectly honest here. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    She was listened to. I was nice. I was charitable. I was charming. I was clear. I answered all her questions. I told her where to go (nicely).

    Frankly, I have my doubts about people like that, and whether the parents even knew the grandmother was calling me. I’ve had a few grandparents trying to get a child baptized over the objections of the parents — or, sometimes, the parents just do it to appease the grandparents.

    The grace of the sacrament is a wonderful thing. Scamming the system isn’t.


  41. Midwestlady says:

    Actually, in some protestant communities you’re much less likely to see that kind of “creative nonsense” than you are among Catholics. I’m speaking of mainline Baptists, evangelicals, Missouri Synod Lutherans, etc.

  42. Midwestlady says:

    Sorry, you’re the one who talked to her, not me, so I didn’t hear the call. I leave it to your judgment.

  43. Midwestlady says:

    As far as I am aware though, and I’ve been around a lot of protestants from a lot of congregations of protestants, they don’t usually baptize their own children though. It’s usually done by a minister. Even if it isn’t done formally in Church, it’s done at a youth group gathering or revival camp or something of the sort. Of course, from a Catholic point of view, none of these Protestant ministers are really ordained, though, so for Catholics, it may be a difference without a distinction, but for protestants it’s not. It’s a big difference for Protestants.

  44. Midwestlady says:

    Yes, so it’s probably some kind of an irregular situation, and the culture is full of them, so who knows what’s going on.

  45. Is it bad that I’m not remotely shocked about this? I work in a parish office – sadly scenarios such as this are all too common. Some people are shocked to learn that at least one Godparent has to be Catholic. RCIA is the route a 10 year old would take in our parish – with the parents being involved.

    The failure is on our part – in the parishes – we are not evangelizing our own parishioners effectively – and I do mean evangelizing because some of them have so much to learn about their own faith – they simply aren’t aware of what the norms are for Baptism. That assumes of course that the people who need to hear the message are actually attending mass, or reading the bulletin to absorb the information when we give it. That said, I am certain many of the most faithful Catholics would struggle to tell you all the requirements for Baptism.

    Too often I deal with people who get ticked because we won’t just shuffle them in, baptize the kid and say no more – they don’t like that we ask them inconvenient questions such as whether they are practicing Catholics, if at least one Godparent is a practicing Catholic – that we ask for proof of their participation in our parish or another, that we ask for documents confirming sacraments, Catholic marriage etc.

    We have also had scenarios where Grandparents will push for a child to be Baptized – we have to make it clear that the child’s parents should be involved in that decision and consent to it – and the parents should be the ones ideally modeling the faith since they are (in most cases) the ones raising the child. We have had other situations where there’s been a mixed religion marriage and the child himself has asked to be baptized, Grandma being the one to help him through that process with the parish – but with the consent of the parents.

    It is a teachable moment – and those of use fending these questions if we’re doing our jobs right do our best to frame the sacrament in an appropriate light – to challenge the parent to think about why they are asking for Baptism and what they will be promising to do as a result. It’s an opportunity to invite them to reconnect with their faith – but it’s not an easy job, especially when you have families approaching parishes simply to check it off their ‘to-do list’

    Sorry, kind of a touchy subject with me these days :D It’s frustrating.

  46. Romulus says:

    Excessive pious zeal can drive people to strange extremes — even scamming the deacon, as you suspect. But is excessive pious zeal consistent with basic confusion about the proper order of the sacraments of initiation — especially that of Baptism? What king of pious Catholic granny gets that mixed up? I wasn’t on the phone call, but my two cents is that you’re dealing with gross ignorance, not an attempt to deceive.

  47. Midwestlady says:

    What puzzles me is that people just want to “check it off their to-do list.” I find that perplexing. I really don’t think you’re kidding. I think that people might actually do that, but why?

  48. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Classic! :-)

  49. Midwestlady says:

    What what kind of “excessive pious zeal” could cause a person to scam a deacon? That’d be like shoplifting a Bible. Tilt.

  50. I am really glad to see that the Holy Spirit is still at work, calling people to the Church Jesus founded. What a beautiful thing and a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved at your parish to first evangelize, and then catechise, this entire family as they all begin to build a relationship with Jesus and his Church.

  51. I ask the same question :) I think sometimes parents come to placate their parents who are pushing them to at least have the kid baptized even if they don’t practice. Maybe they don’t take it seriously is my guess – they’re not entering into the process with a spirit of commitment to their faith, or to raising their child in that faith. Why? Because they don’t understand or feel inspired by their faith? Why? I’m back to my point that maybe those of us who are, in the parishes, in the pews, aren’t doing a good enough job of helping them feel inspired?

  52. A somewhat similar scenario happened in our parish a few years ago. The grandparents had joined the Church through RCIA. A couple of years later they ended up with custody of their 7 year old granddaughter, because the courts had taken her away from her parents (for good reasons, long story). The grandparents wanted to do the best they could for her; and enrolled her in the parish school, and started the process for her Baptism. Father encouraged taking things slowly because of the trauma she had been through, and the changes she had had to assimilate. She was baptized the following year, and had her first Communion a bit later than the normal age. The girl is now in high school, and has had a tough time in some ways; some learning disabilities were also a factor. But she is a loving, sweet kid, and is doing well, thanks to the dedication of her grandparents. The difference here is that they were the ones who had legal custody and actually had authority to make decisions affecting her.
    My own mom, who was the grandmother of twelve, had a special devotion to Sts. Joachim and Anne; they are good patrons to turn to, for all grandparents.

  53. Midwestlady says:

    Yes, but how far can just “feeling inspired” take you? Is that completely what this is about, feeling inspired?

  54. Midwestlady says:

    Rick, do you really think that’s what all this was about? And do you really think that is the likely outcome?

  55. Midwestlady says:

    Oh, yes, those are the patron saints for grandparents, right, Melody?

  56. Midwestlady says:

    You know, I’ve always been impressed by devotion to St. Anne. When I used to go up into Eastern Canada, there were a number of churches named for her. Invariably, in the really old ones there were crutches and so on hanging on the walls beside the statues of Ann and Mary. Cures. Seriously. I don’t know if they’re still there.

    Ah, here we are: St. Anne de Beaupre, Quebec City, Quebec. http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3176/2808546519_0e91929bac_z.jpg

  57. Deacon Steve says:

    The biggest issue I have found with Grandparents desparately trying to get the grandbabies baptized is they fear the children will go to hell if they should die before they are baptized. They aren’t really looking beyond that fear. We do need to have some assurance, no matter how small, that the child will be raised in the faith. We do ask the parents to attest to their intention to do so during the Rite. But canonically if there is any doubt we are to err on the side of the person and Baptize them. Many times I have seen it is the grandparents (usually grandma) driving the baptism, but I ahve also seen in many of those cases the gandparents taking the child or children to mass with them on Sundays. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and if we can be welcoming to them when they come to have their children Baptized, then we have a chance to catechize the whole family. I have baptized two babies that other parishes would not because the family had just relocated to the area and weren’t members of the parish and dad was about to be deployed overseas to Afghanistan. My pastor agreed with me to do them, on Sunday after mass, even though it wasn’t the scheduled day. I hope that they will remember the Church as a welcoming place, not a place that turned them away in their need.

  58. Mom made a pilgrimage to Ste. Anne de Beaupre, she happened to be there on Mother’s Day. They handed out little ribbons to all the mothers with “Bon fete, Maman” printed on them.

  59. Midwestlady says:


    And it’s not only St. Anne de Beaupre that has this. There’s also a St. Anne de Detroit and a St. Anne in Providence, RI of all places, that has one of these displays. It was an interesting early North American devotion apparently.

  60. I tell it to anyone when the topic comes up. But out east, I’m not surprised that some DRE’s would not be up to speed on the rites of the Church.

  61. Funerals too, I’ve observed.

  62. What fuels you? What do you get out of your faith? What keeps you coming back for more? What keeps you faithful and practicing? Something inspires you to – that something of course is the Holy Spirit and the love of God. No ‘being inspired’ isn’t what this is all about – but if by our example and our teaching we can leave someone feeling inspired, leave them with the hook that draws them in, or back – isn’t that worth something?

  63. Midwestlady says:

    I’m not in a state of constant inspiration, no. In fact, many things in the Catholic church have quite the opposite effect on me. But I would say I’m committed to something that I came to believe in with God’s help and providence-the Church’s teachings. And belief in what the Church teaches compels me to actions and attitudes that flow from that, to the meager degree that I can manage to do them.

  64. Midwestlady says:

    And, Annie, I’m sure that I’m not the first to remark that sometimes doing what a person has to do, because they believe what the Church teaches isn’t particularly fun. It can be a bit of an endurance course at times. It’s also not particularly inspiring sometimes.

  65. Midwestlady says:

    The people that I know help me along with it. There are a lot of very nice people in the Catholic church.

  66. Midwestlady says:

    Well, and there’s one other piece to this that we’re not talking about. Baptism within the Church serves a couple of practical purposes as well as being sacramental. It brings you officially onto the rolls of the Church, the head count, and gives you rights and responsibilities. I mean baptism removes all mortal sins, but you can only be baptized once, so after that you have to use confession to tend to mortal sins and you are responsible for that, and things like this. And it carries with it the whole thing about marriage laws which are very different for Catholics than for non-Catholics, and so on. So, taking it lightly can be taking a lot lightly. That’s the other piece of the picture that we’ve not talked about so much.

  67. God bless you for this wonderful, warm response. I am a Gramma bringing her granddaughters to the Baptismal font.

  68. As a ‘lapsed Catholic’ for 25 years, I did allow my parents to pester me into getting our three children baptized…but I dragged my feet and was really quite sacrilegious about the whole thing (and I had attended Catholic school from 1st to 7th grade, received my Confirmation at age 13, etc. — in the 1960′s). In fact, it scandalizes me to thing of how flippant I was about the whole thing for all three. They were all baptized just after or just before their first birthdays — so basically, they walked up the aisle for their baptisms.
    I returned to Holy Church in 1996 and enrolled in a bible study and started digesting the CCC, and the Holy Spirit — long squelched in me — was finally inspiring me (my Confirmation saint, Catherine of Siena, chose me well!) to embrace this wondrous Catholic Church.

    IF the DRE at the time — an elderly BVM nun — had been critical of my poor Catholic parenting up to 1996, I doubt I would have stayed. Her compassion and welcoming attitude is one that I make sure I mimic. It made all the difference. My thrice-married never-baptized husband was baptized a few years later through RCIA after an annulment process that went all the way to the Vatican. Our 17-year-old marriage was finally convalidated.

    Now I am the director of our RCIA (for children, teens, and adults) and — remembering my children’s own experience — helped develop a Family RCIA — the fruits of which are beginning to be more evident to myself and to our parish. All of my kids were altar servers; two were/are the weekend sacristans; another — the musician — played saxophone in the youth Mass musical group and will be married in the Church (to a lovely Christian lady) this July.

    I’ve seen children in RCIA make SUCH a spiritual impact on the lives of their families (all of whom were originally non-practicing Christians or Catholics or agnostics) — always trust in the power of the Holy Spirit when these little ones are confirmed!

  69. David J. White says:

    Surely RCIA is a *program*, not a “rite”, no?

  70. richard kuebbing says:

    It would funny if 2 decades ago I had not been teaching a Baptism class w/my spouse. The parents of one of the candidates were not married but were living together. The sponsor couple were not married but were living together. Ironically no one else in the class was scandalized by the situation. We asked and the pastor of the parish had approved. Apparently the grandparents had pressured him to allow the Baptism.

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