Catholic Tradition Newsletter 483: Confirmation, 24th Sunday after Pentecost, St. Charles Borromeo

Vol 11 Issue 44 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
November 3, 2018 ~ Our Lady on Saturday

Image result for holy souls in purgatory
Holy Souls in Purgatory

1.      What is the Sacrament of Confirmation
2.      Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
3.      St. Charles Borromeo
4.      Family and Marriage
5.      Articles and notices

Dear Reader:

The month of November is dedicated to devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

The devotion, that is devoting time to assisting the faithful departed who are languishing in Purgatory, began early in the Church. In the Old Testament, 2 Machabees 12:42-45, we read:

And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him (the Lord), that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain. And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them.

The third and fourth books of Esdras, considered divinely inspired by many in the Jewish and early Christian communities, are not part of the Bible, but passages from the books are still retained in the Liturgy. From the fourth book the verse Requiem æternam (2:24-25) is said in the Masses and Office for the dead [the antiphon Lux perpetua lucebit sanctis tuis of the Office of the Martyrs and Apostles in Paschal time (2:35), the Introit, Accipite jucunditatem of Tuesday in Octave of Pentecost (2:36-37), the words, Modo coronantur, in Matins for the Apostles (2:45); and the versicle, Crastine die, for Christmas eve Vespers, is from 16:53] giving testimony of the early Church and her thoughts for the faithful departed: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. This means that the faith of the Church was always that there is a place of purgation where souls, not pure before the eyes of God, must go to until such time they were found to be acceptable to be in the presence of God.

The Council of Trent defined the existence of Purgatory:

Since the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Spirit, in conformity with the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers in sacred councils, and very recently in this ecumenical Synod, has taught that there is a purgatory, and that the souls detained there are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, and especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar, the holy Synod commands the bishops that they insist that the sound doctrine of purgatory, which has been transmitted by the holy Fathers and holy Councils, be believed by the faithful of Christ, be maintained, taught, and everywhere preached. . . . (Session XXV, Dec. 3 and 4, 1563; cf. DB 983)

It would seem that even if it were not defined, one would be forced to acknowledge the belief as part of faith since the liturgy of the Church includes offering the Sacrifice of the Mass (supplication and propitiation) for both the living and the dead. When we say prayers, it is not to the souls in purgatory. When we say prayers or give alms in their behalf, it is an act of justice that must be satisfied, the performance of a good deed that atones for the sin (not forgives), a sacrifice that is joined with Christ’s to make up for what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ (cf. Col. 1:24) May we spend this month in that act of charity for our beloved and faithful departed through prayers and Masses being offered in their behalf.

As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor



by Rev. Courtney Edward Krier

1917 Code of Canon Law Concerning Confirmation


On Confirmation


On the time and place for conferring confirmation

Canon 790

This sacrament can be conferred at any time; it is most becoming that it be administered during Pentecost week.

Though it is impossible for some mission territories, the administration here in the United States has been to administer the Sacrament starting after Easter (April) and ending in May before the children end the school year—a time that is near the feast of Pentecost.

Canon 791

Although the proper place for the administration of confirmation is a church, for causes that the minister judges to be just and reasonable, the sacrament can be conferred in any decent place.

Canon 792

The right belongs to the Bishop of administering confirmation within the limits of his diocese even in exempt places.


On sponsors

Canon 793

From the oldest practice of the Church, just as in baptism, so also in confirmation a sponsor is to be used, if this can be done.

Here the Canon Law Digest I takes up reference back to the Instruction on Sponsors in Baptism (S. C. Sacr.) AAS 18-43.

The Archbishop of Utrecht presented the following petition and questions to the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments:

According to c. 765, 5°, in order that a person be a sponsor, it is required that he physically hold or touch the person to be baptized in the act of baptism, either personally or through a proxy, or that he at once lift him or take him up from the font or from the hands of the person baptizing; and according to c. 768 the sponsor contracts with the baptized person a spiritual relationship which, according to c. 1079, is a diriment impediment to marriage. Now, the practice among us is that the person who is to act as sponsor does not give any one an express mandate to represent him, but if he does not personally perform the functions of sponsor, the person who performs the baptism, or the parents of the person to be baptized, invite some other person to act in the place of the absent sponsor. Hence, the following questions are asked:

I. When things are done in this way does the absent sponsor contract the spiritual relationship, and does this give rise to the impediment of c. 1079? and if not:

II. What must the sponsor do in order to be able to act through a proxy; namely:

a) Must he give a certain person a special mandate?

b) Or is it sufficient that he give, either in writing or by word of mouth, a general mandate in favor of the person who shall be chosen by the parents or by the one who performs the baptism?

c) Or is it even sufficient that a general mandate be presumed in favor of any person?

Reply. I. If the sponsor, knowing of this custom, intends to conform to it, and if he is otherwise qualified to be a sponsor according to c. 765, in the affirmative.

II. This case is provided for in the answer to n. I. However, the custom referred to is to be reprobated: (1) because it should be a matter of undoubted certainty before the Church that the sponsor assumed his obligations, and with such a custom this remains uncertain and equivocal; (2) because the sponsor should assume his office with full knowledge and conscience of the obligations arising therefrom under c. 769, and this seems to be prevented by this custom, which reduces the office of sponsor to a mere meaningless ceremony; ( 3) because such a custom almost deprives the pastor of the opportunity to investigate to find out whether those conditions exist which according to cc. 765 and 766 are required in order that a person may validly and licitly be a sponsor.

In view of the above, let an Instruction be prepared for the Most Reverend Ordinaries of places.

Approved and confirmed by His Holiness, Pius XI, 29 July, 1925.


From the replies given to the questions which were submitted, it appears what was the mind of the Most Reverend and Eminent Fathers in this matter.

For in the spiritual regeneration of man which is accomplished through baptism, according to a very ancient practice of the Church, sponsors are used, who are called by sacred writers susceptores, or sponsores, or fidejussores, and who are already mentioned in the first centuries of the Church’s history, for example, by Tertullian in De baptismo, cap. 18. For since it is by baptism that spiritual life begins, and by confirmation that it is perfected, the Church from an early period regarded the person baptizing or confirming as well as the godfather and godmother, as spiritual parents of the person who was baptized or confirmed; whence came the names patrinus and matrina. And this spiritual relationship was the reason that in the course of time the diriment impediment to marriage was introduced. And this was religiously adopted in the Code of Justinian (1. 26 Cod. V. 4), which gives this reason for it: “since nothing else is so apt to produce a paternal affection and a just prohibition of marriage as is this bond by which through the power of God, their souls have been joined together.” And according to the provisions of our present Code, by virtue of canons 768, 797, this institution of spiritual relationship remains substantially unchanged; although its effect is changed, because it is only the spiritual relationship arising from baptism that constitutes a diriment impediment to marriage (c. 1079), and this impediment is restricted to a narrower field.

The Church, according to the conditions existing in various periods, has seen fit to vary the scope of the impediment which is attached to spiritual relationship; nevertheless, the Decretals of the Roman Pontiffs and the Instructions issued by the Councils and Sacred Congregations are constant in testifying to the solicitude that the Church has always manifested that the office of sponsor be sacredly assumed and its obligations faithfully executed.

For we know by what close bonds of duty the sponsors and their godchildren are bound one to another. Pope Nicholas says: “A person should love as a father the one who took him from the holy font” (c. 1, C. XXX, q. 3). And the old sacred canons thus describe at length the obligations of godparents: “Above all, I warn you, women as well as men who have taken up children in baptism, remember that you have stood as sponsors before God for those whom you decided to take up from the sacred font. Hence, exhort them continually to keep chaste, to love justice, to cultivate charity. Above all keep the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer yourselves, and manifest them to these whom you have received as spiritual children” (c. 105, D. IV, de consecr.).

The Church has ceaselessly warned sponsors and declared to them that they are bound to see to the religious education of their godchildren, an obligation which the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in its Instruction of 9 Dec., 1745, to the Mission of Egypt (Collectanea, S. C. Prop. Fid., I, n. 355) derived from the origin and nature of spiritual parenthood, while it at the same time appealed to the doctrine of St. Thomas: “The spiritual regeneration which is effected by baptism is somewhat similar to carnal generation and whereas in carnal generation the little one newly born needs a nurse and tutor, so in spiritual generation it is necessary that there should be someone to play the part of nurse and tutor by instructing his spiritual child in those things which pertain to the faith and to Christian living” (III. q. 67, a. 7). So too in other Instructions of the same Sacred Congregation, as, for example, in that of January, 1763, to the Superior of the Mission of Tripoli, and in that of 15 Sept., 1869, to the Administrator Apostolic of Perth.

And as the Catechism of the Council of Trent seriously declares: “Let godparents everywhere always reflect that they are especially bound by this law” (part II, cap. II, n. 28), so too the Code in most weighty words teaches regarding the obligations of sponsors in baptism: “It is the duty of godparents, arising from the office they have undertaken, to regard their spiritual children as their perpetual charges, and in the things which regard the obligations of the Christian life, to see to it with all diligence that their godchildren may in all relations of life prove themselves such as they guaranteed they should be when they stood sponsor for them in the solemn ceremony” ( c. 7 69). And in the Roman Ritual, recently revised to conform to the Code, the duties of godparents are inculcated in the same words (De Patrinis, n. 38, tit. II, c. I).

As regards confirmation, the Roman Pontifical declares: “The Bishop announces to the man and woman sponsor that they must train their spiritual child to right living, that he shun evil and do good, and that they must teach him the Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary, because this is their duty” (tit. De confirmandis). And the Code, c. 797: “The sponsor is obliged to regard the one confirmed as under his perpetual care, and to see to his religious education.”

Hence, the Church always forbade that those be admitted to the office of sponsors who are unwilling to perform its obligations faithfully, or who are unable to do so with care; and the Code distinctly enumerates the conditions that are required for the licit undertaking of the office; namely, for baptism, canons 765 and 766, which are cited in the Roman Ritual, l. c. nn. 35 and 36; and for confirmation, canons 795 and 796.

Now, as regards the questions submitted by the Most Reverend Archbishop of Utrecht, the provincial Synod of Utrecht, held in 1865, also gravely complains that the office of sponsor is too lightly assumed and too carelessly attended to, saying: “This office is too carelessly regarded in our day, and is scarcely thought of either by those who have to provide the sponsor or by the sponsors themselves.” And the Catechism of the Council of Trent gravely reproves this practice in these words: “This office is so carelessly regarded in the Church today that nothing is left of it but the bare name, and men seem not even to suspect that there is anything sacred about it” (1. c. n. 28). And this contempt of ecclesiastical discipline is in these days the more to be deplored, as the need of Christian education is greater.

For this reason the Eminent Fathers of this Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments, while they replied to the questions submitted by saying, as above reported, that a spiritual relationship is contracted when the thing is done in the manner described in the question, yet they at the same time sharply reproved the aforesaid custom, and ordered that the reasons affecting the case be published, that is that an Instruction be added to the Reply, so that the serious nature of the office of sponsor and of its obligations may be carefully explained to the faithful, and may be better understood by them, especially as the Code has enacted detailed laws regarding the sponsor in baptism, lib. III, part I, tit. I, cap. IV, which are repeated in the Roman Ritual, and in confirmation, tit. II, cap. IV.

For just as no one should be admitted by his pastor to the office of sponsor, who is not qualified for it by the conditions which are required for the valid and licit assumption of this office, so too whenever in the conferring of the sacrament some one plays the part of sponsor, not in his own name but in the name and by the authority of some other certain and determinate person, it is necessary that this authority or the will of the person giving the authority be lawfully proved, to wit, by qualified witnesses or by a legitimate document in writing, unless the intention of the person giving the authority is, from other sources, known with certainty and beyond doubt to the pastor of the person who is being baptized or confirmed, so that the pastor may be able to investigate whether the designated sponsor has the qualifications required by law, and that there may be inscribed in the books wherein the canons require the conferring of the sacrament to be recorded the names both of the proxy and of the principal, who must, of course, know that he has undertaken the office of sponsor with the legal consequences thereof. These are the principal reasons why this Sacred Congregation declared that that custom was to be reprobated which, even though it be rightly observed, contains only a general and presumed authority to act as sponsor.

Finally, be it observed that the office of sponsor belongs by its nature to lay persons; hence, in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, I. c. n. 26, pastors and sacred preachers are told that they must carefully see to it that the faithful understand the more important duties pertaining to that office. In the first place, they must explain the reason why sponsors are used, what their function is, what is required of them; and all this is especially to be explained in the very conferring of the sacrament, both to the faithful in general and to those in particular who undertake this function.

This especially is to be strongly insisted on, that it is the duty of sponsors, arising from the very nature of their office, to look to the Christian education of their spiritual child (cc. 769, 797, 1335) and to regard him as forever entitled to their care; whence it is clear how unbecoming it is for one who has offered himself as the tutor and guardian of another, after he has once taken him under his care and tutelage, to desert him until such time as he learns that he needs his help and protection (Catechism of the Council of Trent, I. c. n. 2 8). And this is to be insisted on more strongly in our times, when faith and morals are more in danger, and when parents themselves sometimes forgetting their grave obligations fail to care as they should for the Christian education of their children; and hence the services of the sponsors are to be rendered all the more diligently, “lest while we retain the name and external sign of that office, we banish from it that observance of Christian charity which is the reason for its institution and continuance” (Provincial Council of Prague, 1860).

While we recall these most weighty teachings, let us observe that this institution of the Church regarding sponsors is so noble, excellent, and efficacious, that we see in various nations the introduction of sponsorships or patronships, for instance, for children who are going to school or who have left school, in a word, for nearly all those needs for which parents or the civil authorities are unable adequately to provide. But today when faith is growing cold, this sacred sponsorship established of old by the Church is despised or made little of, while similar institutions in civil society are followed with enthusiasm. But this evil, so grave and so shameful to Christian manhood, must be entirely removed; there must be a return to obedience to the mind of Holy Mother Church; and it will not fail to conduce to the welfare of civil society as well.

AAS 18-43; S. C. Sacr., Instruction, 25 Nov., 1925.

Periodica, 15-42 (Vermeersch); J.P., 1926-12.

                                    (To be continued)


Dr. Pius Parsch

The Church’s Year of Grace (1958)

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Rev. Pius Parsch

1. Divine Office. The doctrine proper to today’s Divine Office is in the Gospel pericope and in the first nocturn lessons which introduce St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In the third nocturn we read St. Jerome’s comments upon the Gospel narrative of the storm on the sea of Galilee:

“‘But He was asleep. So, they came and woke Him, and said: Lord, save us!’ An Old Testament type for the story can be found in the prophet Jonas. While the others were in grave danger of shipwreck, the prophet was sleeping calmly; in fact, he had to be awakened. By the instructions he gave them and by his suffering (which prefigured a future mystery), he saved those who had awakened him. ‘Then He arose and commanded the winds and the sea.’ These words teach us that all creatures ·sense their Creator. For, the object that is rebuked and commanded must be aware of the one commanding. Note, however, that what I am saying is by no means to be taken in the sense of those heretics who believe all things are endowed with a soul. Rather, what I mean is that by reason of the Creator’s sovereign majesty even those things which cannot sense man’s presence, are nevertheless aware of Him.”

In the antiphons at sunrise and sunset we associate ourselves with the apostles and beg Jesus to calm the storm: “When Jesus got into a boat, behold, there arose a great storm on the sea; and His disciples woke Him saying: Lord, save us! we are perishing!” (Ben. Ant.). “Lord, save us! we are perishing! Command, O God, and make a great calm!” (Magn. Ant.). The liturgy lays singular stress on the disciples’ urgent plea; it is one we should make our own.

2. Scripture Reading (Phil. 1:1-18). Like Ephesians the Epistle to the Philippians was written by St. Paul during his first imprisonment at Rome. Of all his letters, none is more intimate or affectionate. He dearly loved the community at Philippi, his first foundation on European soil; and it always remained true and devoted to him. The apostle thanks the community for the love-inspired gift they had sent him in prison; he sought to inform them of his condition and included some practical exhortations for their lives as Christians (1: 1-18). In the liturgy only two days are at our disposal for covering this beautiful epistle. (We hope many will take it upon themselves to read it through entirely.)

Paul begins by giving thanks for the zealous faith of the Philippian Christians. Then he explains to them that his imprisonment had not proven detrimental to the gospel; on the contrary, in various ways it had been beneficial. Whatever the result of the legal proceedings against him, he was completely resigned to God’s holy will.

“My hope and longing are that I shall in no way be put to shame, but rather that Christ now as always will be freely and openly glorified in my body, whether in life or in death. For as I see it, living means Christ, and death means enrichment. If life in the flesh is to be my lot, this will simply mean more fruitful labor. Thus, my choice is a hard one, and I am strongly attracted to both sides. My desire is to die and be with Christ; this is by far the best. But to continue in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. And with this conviction I know that I shall stay on and abide among you for your advancement and joy in the faith” (1:20-25)….

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