It was the first baptism in the Old Rite in 40 years at our parish. I had just finished rehearsing with my different choirs in between Masses. Father invited me to stay for the baptism and realizing that I had not stopped for a moment's breath, I thought it a great combination: witness a Sacrament and stop to smell the figurative roses.
The family was all smiles and picture taking abounded with the baby dressed in the heirloom gown. Father and our seminarian-in-residence were busy preparing the font. It was an auspicious moment...one reserved for God.
Finally, we began in the narthex with Father dressed in a beautiful surplice over his cassock, a purple stole around his neck. Father asked: "What do you ask of the Church of God?" The Godparents answered: "Faith" Father: What does Faith offer you?" Godparents: "Life everlasting."
Life everlasting. You can't get more profound than that. To be with God forever beholding his face. That is what the godparents are asking the Church. These aren't just empty words, they hold a promise so momentously altering.
Father breathed on the baby three times, recalling when Adam came to life, invoking all those times when the Spirit moved.
The baby was agitated.
The Sign of the Cross was traced twice on the baby, first her on her forehead and then on her heart. Accipe signum Crucis tam in fronte, quam in corde, sume fidem cælestium præceptorum: et talis esto moribus, ut templum Dei iam esse possis. Receive the Sign of the Cross both upon your forehead + and also upon your heart +; take to you the faith of the heavenly precepts; and so order your life as to be, from henceforth, the temple of God.
Baby's agitation grew louder and louder.
The Imposition of Hands followed and then came the Imposition of the Salt. When a grain of the blessed salt was placed in her mouth, the baby let out an ear-piercing scream.
It was just in time for the Exorcism.
Father persevered through the noise: " I exorcise thee, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father + and of the Son, + and of the Holy + Spirit, that thou goest out and depart from this servant of God. For He commands Thee, accursed one, Who walked upon the sea, and stretched out His right hand to Peter about to sink. Therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge thy sentence, and give honor to the living and true God: give honor to Jesus Christ His Son, and to the Holy Spirit; and depart from this servant of God, N. because God and our Lord Jesus Christ hath vouchsafed to call her to His holy grace and benediction and to the font of Baptism."
Father laid the end of his stole on the baby's face after which we were admitted into the nave of the Church. The Credo and Paternoster were recited as Baby's screams echoed throughout the church.
Her sister followed pushing the little pram but then decided that running around in circles was much more exciting than the Solemn Exorcisms being performed. Granddad and Grandma tried in vain to still Sister.
Satan was renounced and all his works and pomps accompanied by the staccato of Sister's running feet.
Then an amazing thing happened. When Father anointed Baby with the Oil of Catechumens (Ego te linio Oleo salutis in Christo Iesu Domino nostro, ut habeas vitam æternam), a quiet overcame all of us. There was blessed stillness so startling that it took my breath away.
At the font, not a peep came from Baby as Sister watched solemnly. Water blessed at Easter Vigil was poured on Baby's forehead in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
How can one not feel the importance of such a moment? Now cleansed of Original Sin, here is a new creature adopted as a daughter of the Eternal Father through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of His Son, and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
After the last anointing with Chrism Oil this time and the lighting of the Baptismal Candle from the flame of the Paschal Candle, Father dismisses the newly-baptized: "Vade in pace et Dominus sit tecum. Amen."
What a privilege to witness a moment of victory for God. A life snatched from the enemy. May she flourish and grow in the Light of Christ.