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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Britney Spears Needs a Pope

While watching CNN today
to see what we need to be praying for, we were shocked to find out we knew lots of things about Miss Britney Spears. I was amazed to find that I didn't need any background on the story to understand what the perfectly coiffed newswomen were reporting. I can't remember the phone number for the neighboring parish office, but I know lots things about this Miss Spears, things that I do not need to know. Ever.

But today we learned that Miss Spears behavior (see our last entry for the definition of 'scandal') has cost her custody of her two children. (I'm surprised I don't know the cell phone numbers of her two toddlers.) All the young pretty women who talk on the news channel seem to think this is a very good thing.

I can't judge. None of us like the idea of a child ripped from his mother, even for his own good. We would rather his mother would come to her senses and turn into Betty Crocker. Or Aunt Jemimah. She certainly looks nurturing. At least we know they can both cook.

If Miss Spears is concerned that losing her children is a bad thing, I have two words for her: Edgardo Mortara. If only the Pope would step in.

Little Edgardo was a young Jewish lad who became deathly ill. He was one of seven children living happily with his Jewish family. But fortunately for him when he became very ill, the Catholic maid became alarmed that he may die and go straight to hell and baptized him in the kitchen sink.

(She should have known he wouldn't go to hell. He was under age seven, the age of reason. He would have gone to Limbo. It was still open back then. The under-Catechised have always been with us.)

Actually, I'm not sure where she baptized him. My mother always wanted to baptize my unbaptized cousin in his kitchen sink and the image just stuck with me. You can't just go around baptizing babies in the sink, no matter how much you might want to do it. You can't baptize a baby against the will of ...or behind the backs of...his parents. Normally, only a priest would baptize anybody.

But if some unbaptized person of any age is about to kick the bucket without having been baptized you can leap to the rescue and baptize them. The only hitch is you can't do it without water. You can't grab the dishwashing liquid from under the sink or the cooking oil or anything like that. As long as you have water you don't even need the person's head. You can pour the water on whatever part of them you can get near.

Don't worry if you end up in this scenario: you come across a car in a ditch. The mangled wreckage envelopes a dying unbaptized person. If only you had a bottle of Arrowhead you could pour it on the person on whatever part of the person you can see, even though you can no longer tell what it is. You could even use that Dasani stuff that's made from, well, not Lake Arrowhead. But you have no water. At the point where the person is about to die, but wishes you had the water to baptize them with, they are baptized. That's called a baptism of desire.

If the person has not been baptized, but crashed his car into a tree rather than renounce Jesus, he has had a baptism of blood, generally know as 'martyrdom'. You don't need to lift a finger.

You can only baptize an unbaptized person with water without any one's permission if it is an emergency.

Edgardo's maid felt it was an emergency.

At that time, in Italy in 1846 or so, it was illegal for a Jewish family to raise a Christian child. Edgardo's maid had made him a Christian and the police came and took him away. He was six years old.

The Pope, Pope Pius IX never heard the end of it. Every head of every state called to complain. But Pope Pius IX was one of the most stubborn Popes we've ever had. His nickname was "Pio NoNo". Edgardo stayed at the Vatican a lot of the time and the Pope had a good time playing with him. They became great pals. Edgardo's parents came to visit him many times and begged and pleaded to take him home but he didn't want to go home with them.

How do we know? Edgardo testified at the canonization hearings of Pope Pius IX. Edgardo said he was happy to see the folks but miraculously never wanted to go home with them.

Edgardo became a priest. Britney Spears should be so fortunate.

Too bad the Pope isn't getting hold of the kids. They are going to their father, who according to the pretty young women who read the news, is not the type to lead them toward the priesthood. Or baptize them in the sink or anywhere else. We'll be praying.


Anonymous said...

May I ask how you go about praying for these people? I often do a quick "Lord have mercy" or some such prayer when reading the headlines (or your blog), but that seems so inadequate for something like having your children taken away from you. I don't follow many of these stories (except what I glean from the magazines in the checkstand at the grocery store, which I am usually turning around to cover the sleaze.)

Anonymous said...

Ok, so my brother-in-law has a brother who is Catholic but married a Jewish woman, who doesn't practise her faith. They had a child but can't agree to a faith to raise the child in, so they just don't do anything. Is it wrong for my brother-in-law to baptise the child without parental consent? Isn't the risk to the child's immortal soul an emergency?

Denise said...

Every sacrament must have a valid form, valid matter, and valid minister. For baptism, the minister must be a priest or a deacon unless the one to be baptized is in imminent danger of death. Therefore, unless your brother-in-law is a priest or deacon he is not a valid minister for this sacrament. The form for baptism is also critical. It must be done "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." This is important because it is becoming commonplace in the Episcopal Church as well as other Protestant congregations to baptize "In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer". This is not a valid baptism. Catholic priests from the Paulist Center in Boston (not a center known for its faithful Catholicism) tried this and their bishop made them call back all these folks because they were not really baptized.

As far as your brother-in-law's nephew goes, trust in God's mercy. And pray for his nephew that as he gets older, God's grace will lead him to the Faith.

Kasia said...

My only thought on the Britney Spears situation was "Wow, it's got to be awful to hear that a judge thinks K-Fed would be a better guardian than you."

:-( She definitely needs prayers. So does he. And the babies.

Sister Mary Martha said...

anonymous, as I said in my post, you cannot go around baptizing people, even though it seems like a good idea.

If it is a non-emergency (and it is)only an ordinary minister of the sacrament can perform the baptism.

Sister Mary Martha said...

monica, just talk to God about them.

Anonymous said...

I forgot the part where my brother-in-law is a minister. He's not Catholic anymore. The Church took my protestant baptism as legit so now where are we? Is he wrong to baptise the child without parental knowledge?

Sir Galen of Bristol said...

I've never told anyone this, but when my daughter (just turned 4 yesterday) was a newborn, she used to wake up crying and it would take a long time to get her back to sleep. Every night.

One night, perhaps because of sleep deprivation, I became afraid that something was seriously wrong with her and that we might lose her (this turned out to be incorrect, but with a crying baby in my arms in the middle of the night and I have to be at work alert in the morning, it didn't seem so unreasonable).

So I dipped my fingers in the Holy Water font next to the door and made the sign of the cross on her forehead and said "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

Eventually, she learned how to sleep through the night and in due course, she was baptized in Church by a deacon who was a friend of ours.

Did I actually baptize her? Did I do something wrong?

Anonymous said...

As a semiarian, a young woman was raising (basically) two young children whose parents were drug adicts. She came to me one day, upset that they would not have the babies baptised. I quitely baptised them because I felt it was an emergency situation, and none of the priests were around to consult. Several days later, Charlie, the littlest one, was crushed by a dresser that his sister accidentaly pushed onto his crib. To this day, I have felt that I did the right thing; who knows why I felt compelled to do such a thing.

Anonymous said...

This case is often discussed in Jewish circles. My b'nai mitzvah class (two former Catholics included) find the Church's actions/decisions bizarre to say the least. The mother and father never gave up trying to reclaim their son; their love for him was unending. How can anyone respect a Church that does such a thing?

Anonymous said...

Sister, I have an interesting baptism story from a friend of mine. I don't think she would mind me passing it on.

She was a nurse in an extended care hospital. One of the patients was a young man who was quadraplegic, and was also an alcoholic. His friends would help him drink alcohol and he would be drunk by noon. She said he was the most miserable and abusive person, swearing at the nurses and calling them names. After some time his friends all died so he couldn't get drunk anymore and maybe he decided to die too. She said one day she went into his room when he was near death. She remembered he was so pale he looked white, and he was unconscious. She had seen a holycard in his bedside table so she baptized him and said the Divine Mercy prayer for him before he died. Some months later she had a dream. She saw a young man beside her bed. She didn't recognize him but he was so thin and so pale he looked white; and he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. She said the touch was so cold it woke her up, and she could feel the coldness on her cheek for quite a while after.

I asked her if she thought he kissed her for baptizing him or for saying the Divine Mercy; but she didn't know.

Anonymous said...

this is completely out of nowhere, but I have a question for you. What if I want to become catholic but my husband doesn't? I'm a lifelong christian, an anglican. I can't take the episcopal church anymore. But, as of right now, I haven't even permitted myself to seriously consider becoming roman catholic because I know my husband isn't considering it, nor likely to any time in the near future.

so...what? pray? pretend like the episcopal church isn't a lot of heretics? I'm completely serious about this question.

Anonymous said...

ps, i know I split an infinitive there. :)

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous:

The law regarding the raising of Christians by Jewish family members was an Italian law. It's a bit like taking English law and saying it represented the Church of England at the time, or saying that Israeli politics reflect badly (or well) on all Jews. If one chooses to take such a view, then one totally throws away the fact that Pope John Paul gave advice to a Christian family that they raise a Jewish boy as Jewish, even though it was unclear whether his family survived the Holocaust. One also looks with disdain upon families such as mine, which has a mix of Jewish, Catholic and Protestant members.

Anonymous said...

The anon who wants to become Catholic. Are you drawn to the Church or are you just ticked off at your church? If you feel drawn to become Roman Catholic then you are already being called by God. Be honest with your husband and don't pressure him, just follow where God is leading you. It's a great place to be.

Anonymous said...

no, i'm drawn to the church. i have been for a long time. the episcopal church was never much more than a compromise for me.

Kevin - "pax tecum" said...

enough with the anonymous posting already...

Annie said...

um, okay. I signed up for blogger just so I won't be anonymous. I hope that makes you happy.

I'm the one who asked the anonymous question about being roman catholic.

Anonymous said...

To "Paul, just this guy, you know": I believe you validly baptized the child. Persons who are baptized by laymen under emergency conditions should, if they survive and recover, later be baptized in church as well. The ceremony will, however, only fill in the parts that were left out, and will not repeat the actual words of baptism.

Wendy said...

Funny you'd mention it! I baptized my baby just a few months ago! He seemed fine when he was born, but about 2 hours later, after my family had left, he started having trouble breathing. I asked the nurse to bring him to me before they took him to the NICU and baptized him with the water I had been drinking from while in labor. After a week in the NICU, he came home and is perfectly healthy now! We did have a ceremony at our parish later, but the date on his baptismal certificate is the day I baptized him.

Anonymous said...

Sister, am I right that you believe it was a good thing for Edgardo to be taken from his Jewish parents, just because he accepted it in the end? I'm a convert from a Jewish family. Do you have any idea how this sort of thing looks to Jewish people, or to anybody concerned with human rights? Most Jews who find themselves attracted to Christ have a long struggle before they can be baptized, just because of this terrible history of coercion and violation of human rights. My father asked for and received baptism two weeks before he died, but my sister is still convinced that we must have tricked him into it, because that's the sort of thing Catholics are always doing. Can you blame her?

La Bibliotecaria Laura said...

This is an interesting topic, indeed. Very well presented.

But I do not think that the concept of Baptism of Desire is accurately described.

I think it is when the Baptized person wishes he were Baptized-- but then dies. He desires the promises of Baptism.

I think in an extreme emergency, you do not need water--you can even use spit. I was catechized by a Vietnam War veteran.

Dr. Mooney said...

The Mormon Church has a practice of baptizing those ancestors not alive anymore! They were doing it to all the victims of the Holcaust (who I'M NOT SURE would want to BE baptized in the first place!), but I think they were forced to stop.

Anonymous said...

Did we have to bring up the Mormons?!? When I was a Lutheran (now Catholic), and much much younger, my best friend was (still is) a Mormon. She was angry with me because I rejected her hypothetical baptism for me if I were dead . . . I explained to her at the time that we believe in ONE baptism and I had been baptized in the Lutheran Church in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. To me, the CREED said it all. She seemed to think I was crazy to deny a baptism for myself after I'm dead. Here's the thing: I don't think I can be "saved" by baptism by proxy any more than anyone else can. It's rather presumptuous to invalidate someone's valid Christian baptism.


Anonymous said...

My sister is a neo-natal nurse practitioner who works in a Catholic hospital. She says they are very careful about baptizing sick babies (without the presence of the parents) because if the baby gets better, the family can't have another baptism and most families want that ceremony.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Annie, aka Anon Anglican--
Keep praying for sure! God will lead you to the right path.

I'd see if you can have a chat with Fr. Dwight Longernecker, a former Evangelical turned Anglican priest, turned Catholic (and still a priest). He's VERY articulate and seems to welcome these questions. He certainly has some of the background to help you out, I think. I think his blog is:

But I will pray for you tonight as well. Peace.