A few months before our son was born we made the final decision on who would baptize him. I approached my current boss and pastor, Fr. Chris Axline, and asked him if we could do the Extraordinary Form for our son’s baptism. We were informed of the Extraordinary Form from my former boss and pastor, Fr. Will Schmid.
After researching it a bit, Fr. Chris said that we could do the Extraordinary Form and that we was excited to baptize our son in this rite. A few days before the Baptism, Father shared with me the rite itself. Reading the directions and words for the Baptism was great, but experiencing my son receive his first Sacrament in this form was just awesome!
Now I would imagine that some people actually have seen this rite before since a portion of it is depicted in the film, The Godfather. In one of the last scenes of the movie, Michael Corleone is Godfather for his sister’s son. As the priest is asking him questions about the renouncing of Satan, he is “whacking” (killing-off) all of his enemies.
I don’t understand why the Catholic Church decided to change Baptism from the Extraordinary Form to the Ordinary Form in 1970, but let me tell you, if you are going to baptize a child soon or have children that will do so, the Extraordinary Form is the way to go. After watching my son get baptized, I wanted to get “re-baptized” in this rite (I was baptized in 1974). I will say that the Ordinary Form is still filled with great joy, however, it is watered down and vague in certain areas. It just doesn’t have the gusto of the traditional rite.
The Baptism begins in the entrance of the Church to show that the candidate for Baptism is not yet a member of the community. The priest is vested in surplice with a purple stole. He then questions the child, and the Godparents respond. The priest then breathes lightly three times on the face of the child and recites a short prayer. Then the priest makes the sign of the cross with his thumb upon the forehead and also on the breast of the child. After reciting another prayer, the priest then lays his hand on the head of the child.
The priest then exorcises the salt (Fr. Chris did this before the Baptism began) and places a small amount of salt on the child’s lips (it did not bother him). The salt is a symbol of wisdom. The prayer is associated with the first taste of food and the foreshadowing of the Eucharist. After this, the priest then says a prayer of exorcism over the child that begins with the words – “I exorcise thee…”
You really should read the entire prayer yourself because it’s very powerful. The priest then makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the child and after another short prayer and lays his hand on the child’s head again.
After all of this occurs at the entrance of the Church, the priest then places the end of his stole on the child and leads him into the church saying: “N., enter into the temple of God, so that you may have part with Christ in everlasting life.” The priest then leads everyone in saying the Apostles Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. The priest then recites another prayer of exorcism.
The priest then moistens his thumb with saliva from his mouth and touches the ears of the child in the form of the cross and says, “Ephpheta, which means, Be opened.” He then touches the nostrils and says “In the odor of sweetness. But thou, O devil, begone; for the judgment of God is nigh.”
Here the priest then questions the Godfather about the renouncing of Satan and his allurements. The Godfather answers, “I do renounce him.” The priest then anoints the child with the Oil of Catechumens on his breast and between his shoulders.
From here the priest then changes from a purple stole to a white stole and performs a variety of tasks focusing on the water within the baptismal font. There is a mixing of the oils with the water, the breathing on the water, and the dispensing of the water in four directions. He also asks the child a set of questions, where the Godfather answers – “I do believe.”
Once all of this is complete, then the child is Baptized while being held by the Godmother, and with water being poured over his head, the priest says, “N., I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” From here, the child is then anointed with the Sacred Chrism on the crown of his head in the form of the cross.
A white garment is then given. Our son was wearing the white baptismal gown that I first wore 45 years ago. It was worn by my sister, some of our younger cousins, and my sister’s children. The Godfather is then given a lighted Baptismal Candle. After a short prayer focusing on the candle, the final blessing is said.
What I really loved about this Baptism was the rituals involved. These days it seems like so many in the Church want to get rid of the traditions and rituals that have made the Church so visible in the world. We also want to reject the idea of Satan since so many don’t believe he even exists. The symbols used in this old rite are more than just symbols. They are powerful and have the ability to defeat Satan.
Experiencing the old rite of Baptism was beautiful and awesome! There is nothing ambiguous in the Extraordinary Rite. We are brought face to face with evil and sin, and those are destroyed through the prayers of exorcism. We see that the Catholic Church through her union with Jesus Christ has the power to defeat sin and death and has the tools of supernatural means to do so.
Authors note: The Extraordinary Form of Baptism was permitted by the Apostolic Letter Given Motu Proprio – Summorum Pontificum, On the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970. It was written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.