Catholic Tradition Newsletter 485: Confirmation, Twenty-sixth Sunday, Dedication of Sts. Peter and Paul

Image result for All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Vol 11 Issue 46 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
November 17, 2018 ~ Saint Gregory the Wonder-Worker

1.      What is the Sacrament of Confirmation
2.      Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
3.      Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul
4.      Family and Marriage
5.      Articles and notices

Dear Reader:

In the United States the majority of Americans are going to celebrate what is called Thanksgiving.

Many Protestant sects refused to accept Catholic celebrations such as Christmas. Others were changed into mockeries of the Catholic concept, such as Halloween (because the poor still wanted the benefits of the alms). Catholic feasts that fell on secular holidays, like the New Year, retained the secular but lost its religious character. Even Easter, despite it being the Resurrection of Christ and many Protestants waiting for the sun to rise, returned, for just such reasons, to a spring holiday with bonnets and rabbits. Thanksgiving is a secular holiday that skips the Christian (Catholic) idea of Mass (Holy Eucharist, Eucharist meaning Thanksgiving) idea and returns to the ancient Israelite festival of Sukkot. This is not being written to dissuade Catholics from celebrating the secular Thanksgiving, but to recognize that Catholics should be giving thanks always and at Mass particularly. Last Sunday Saint Paul reminded us, All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Col. 3:17) With what preceded it, one could infer that Saint Paul was speaking of our participation in the Holy Eucharist, which is offered daily by a priest, but continuously throughout the day throughout the world. It is here, specifically that we give thanks, as the Preface states:

Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.

It is fitting and just.

It is truly right and just, proper and helpful toward salvation, that we always and everywhere give thanks to Thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty and Eternal God, through Christ our Lord.

A spirit of gratitude engenders a spirit of giving and it is known that more people give during the so-called holidays, that is, after Thanksgiving and through Christmas, because they reflect on what they have received in life and are told to be grateful. For us, as Catholics, having a spirit of gratitude towards God for all the benefits He has bestowed upon us would move us to be more generous in our giving thanks by helping one another in and in returning thanks to God by being present at holy Mass as often as possible—but definitely on Sunday. The gratitude of the early Christians was seen by their presence at Mass. The gratitude of many, when Mass was taken away, was to travel miles to attend Mass. Unfortunately, many who have had the benefit of Mass even during these days where it becomes less available elsewhere don’t appreciate the blessings they have and excuse themselves from even Sunday Mass because of work, weather or weariness. The sacrifice one makes to be present at Mass when it is difficult expresses all the more the gratitude in the act of Thanksgiving given during Mass. As the day of Thanksgiving is celebrated on November 22, may we express our gratitude by promising that we will not excuse ourselves but give thanks always, especially at Sunday Mass. May all have a blessed Thanksgiving Day.

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

Canon 797

From a valid confirmation there arises between the one confirmed and the sponsor a spiritual relationship by which the sponsor is bound by the obligation of perpetual concern toward the one confirmed and of taking care for his Christian education.

Bouscaren, in Canon Law Digest (I) references AAS 18-43, which is presented here again since it applies not only to the sponsors of baptism, but also to the sponsor at Confirmation.

Reply and Instruction on Sponsors in Baptism

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-sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Rev. Pius Parsch

1. Divine Office. The theology proper to today’s Divine Office is contained in the two Gospel parables and in the Readings from St. Paul’s sublime Epistle to the Hebrews. In the second nocturn St. Athanasius, with chapter one of Hebrews in mind, comments on the pre-eminence of Christ over all the angels. Christ’s supremacy and priesthood are most appropriate thoughts at the conclusion of the Christmas cycle. The two Gospel parables serve as the major antiphons at Lauds and Vespers. “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which is the smallest of all the seeds; but when it grows up it is larger than any herb” (Ben. Ant.). “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and buried in three measures of flour, until all of it was leavened (Magn. Ant.). In the third nocturn St. Jerome associates the mustard seed with the knowledge of the Scriptures and the preaching of the Gospel.

2. Holy Mass. . . .Today, altering her approach slightly, the liturgy wishes to emphasize the steady, organic, and irresistible growth of God’s kingdom. In spite of external and internal enemies (fourth and fifth Sundays), Christ’s Church, like the mustard seed, grows outwardly from a small beginning to a mighty tree; and the nations of the world come like birds to dwell in her branches. Inwardly, a divine life is pulsating through her members, permeating and transforming them like leaven.

In the Epistle Mother Church presents a model Christian community and its model shepherd—a flesh and blood commentary on the Gospel. At the end of the Christmas cycle we might well examine our conscience to see whether we too would deserve such praise. “We are constantly thanking God for you. . . mindful of your active faith, your self-sacrificing love, your persevering hope.” How do I stand in regard to these theological virtues? Daily I listen to the Gospel at holy Mass. Has it manifested itself within me “in power and the fullness of the Holy Spirit”? To what extent am I “a pattern to all believers”?

We should bear in mind, too, how in the Mass the Gospel turns into reality. The grain of mustard seed is the Eucharist; deposited in the soil of our soul, It should sprout and grow into a tree, the tree of a good Christian life. Holy Communion is also the leaven that a woman, Mother Church, takes and mixes thoroughly into the dough (Christian hearts) to effect a thorough transformation. Such is the role of the Eucharist. It is not the full-grown mustard seed or the baked loaf of leavened bread. Rather It is the leaven itself, and the tiny seed. It is a power or force that becomes effective only through the cooperation of man’s will. Today, may the holy Sacrifice, like leaven, “cleanse, renew, govern, and protect us” (Secr.).

3. Sunday Meditation. A. The Parable of the Grain of Mustard Seed. Our Lord compares the kingdom of heaven to a grain of mustard seed. The tiny seed is planted in a field or garden; it grows rapidly, resembles a tree in form and size, with branches large enough for birds to perch on. Some of our readers may have seen mustard plants, for they are cultivated in certain localities. Its seed is used to make common table mustard, and the plant serves medicinal purposes in the form of mustard plaster. The smallness of its seed was proverbial in the Orient. Birds relish the seed and flock to the plant’s branches to peck the tiny black grains from the ripened pods. So much for the parable, it is familiar enough. Now its message.

By this parable, what did our Lord wish to teach His disciples and us? Primarily, His purpose was to reveal another mystery pertaining to the kingdom of heaven and to settle further doubts regarding its nature. It was time for Him to tell the apostles that the mass of Jewish people, including the Pharisees, would not become members of the kingdom. At first it would comprise only the small group of His immediate followers. This news could well have spelled disillusionment for the apostles. Had not the prophets pictured the messianic kingdom in universal terms, embracing the whole world? Jesus must assure them; they would get the true approach from a parable. There would be a small beginning, but in time it would cover the face of the earth. The little story brought home two big truths: (a) the tiny mustard seed implied a small, unpretentious origin for the Church; (b) the growth and the relative greatness of the mature plant foreshadowed her spread throughout the world.

a) The small beginning. That God’s kingdom should begin small was contrary to Jewish expectation; but it did harmonize perfectly with a fundamental principle of Christ’s teaching. The law of humility, of lowly origins, lies at the very heart of Christianity, whether we take a full view or a passing glance, whether we study the individual soul or the Church as a whole. Jesus Himself was the first to exemplify it. Already as an Infant, from His cold cradle of straw, He proclaimed to the world the spirit of His kingdom. To this spirit He adhered consistently in His life and teaching.

It was the spirit He propounded in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are the persecuted and the disinherited of earth—theirs is the kingdom of heaven. At another time He thanked His heavenly Father because the mysteries of the kingdom were hidden from the wise and prudent, but revealed to little ones. How “small,” i.e., derided and forsaken, did He become in His last hours; and on Calvary “He humbled Himself unto death, even death upon a Cross” in St. Paul’s words. There on Golgotha He placed the small grain of mustard seed in the ground and sprinkled it heavily with His blood.

Since the Church is Christ, her character and nature must be Christ-like. Small, lowly, despised by the world—such was her origin. It was a small and needy group that the divine Shepherd assembled; but He told them with supreme confidence: “Fear not, My little flock; it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” The precedent was set. Always and everywhere the Church begins small. The world’s great and rich ignore her; the little ones, the blind, the lame, these become her members. Nor is there any difference in the case of individuals. You must begin with humility and self-abasement; you must become humble, small. Foundations are laid in humility.

b) The huge, mature plant. The tiny seed grows into a great plant, picturing the Church’s expansion. In a relatively short time Christianity had spread to every corner of the Roman Empire. The Acts of the Apostles describes that growth. Already on the first Pentecost thousands were baptized. Soon the Apostle of the Gentiles was sent forth to carry the gospel to Asia Minor and to Europe. In city after city he founded Christian communities, so that at the turn of the first century 1there was no locality about the Mediterranean where Christ had not gained a firm foothold. The Roman Emperors tried desperately to uproot the spreading plant; branches fell as the blood of martyrs flowed. But the tree grew. In 312 Emperor Constantine could not but grant the Church her freedom. Paganism had been overcome. The Church’s resources had been the love, the faith, and heroic lives of her members. The grain of mustard seed sown on Golgotha had grown to a giant tree with branches extending into every nation.

B. The Parable of the Leaven. The two parables are closely related; one completes the other. The first treats the external, visible growth of God’s kingdom; the second points up its inner transforming power and efficacy. The first emphasizes extension and numerical expansion, while the second stresses the spiritual change Christianity produces in individuals and in society.

As for the story itself, it had to do with a very familiar item in Jewish kitchens. Leaven had been in use from Israel’s earliest history; we find it mentioned as far back as the flight from Egypt. Bread-baking was a daily task. Into a mess of flour, the women mixed a small portion of leaven or yeast, but that was enough to permeate and lighten the whole lump.

The point of comparison is not hard to detect. Even as the tiny mustard seed contains such vital potency as to become a great tree, so a small quantity of leaven possesses the force and strength to transform the whole batch of flour. The leaven’s activity takes places within the dough; hence the parable illustrates the penetrating and transforming effects of God’s kingdom in souls and in the world. From its very beginning Christianity began to modify every aspect of life, whether of individuals, the family, or the state. It was, in truth, the leaven that changed the world, that “renewed the face of the earth.” It constituted the greatest moral and intellectual revolution in history. This quality of Christianity, namely, its power to reform and remake, is very effectively portrayed by our Lord’s simple little parable.

Examples of Christianity’s transforming power would not be hard to find. Look what it did to slavery. The suppression of slavery is one of the Church’s finest achievements in Roman times. Or think of the status to which paganism had reduced women and children. Or recall another dismal page of mankind’s history, the sensuality and impurity of the ancient world. Contrast this with the Christian ideal of chastity!

The parable also touches me. Christianity should be a leaven in my heart; it must spiritualize my life too. Religion cannot be a closed-off compartment in my life, it must reach into and affect my work, my recreation, my suffering. My thoughts, my feelings, my desires, my speech, my love, all must be transformed by the leaven, Christ.  



Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul

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