Sacraments

Baptism

The arrival of a newly born infant is the occasion of great happiness. Like the friends of St John the Baptist's parents, Elizabeth and Zachary, we might wonder "What will this child be?" There could be countless answers to this question, but the one thing that is certain is that each baby is called not only to be the child of Mummy and Daddy, but also to be a child of God. As the waters of baptism pour over a child's head, something really wonderful happens: the original sin with which we are all born is really washed away; sanctifying grace (God's life and love) are poured into the soul; the image of Christ is stamped onto the soul forever, the baby becomes a child of God and an heir to His kingdom.

By having a child baptised, the parents commit themselves to bringing him or her up as a Catholic; they must pledge themselves to educate the child in the Catholic Faith and give practical examples of living that Faith. In real terms, this means being active members of the Catholic Church, beginning with weekly Sunday attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and regular family prayers at home. Without this commitment, parents risk taking baptism for a more or less empty cultural gesture without any real significance. On the contrary, by pledging to involve their children actively in the life of the Church, they give their children the best start in life and set them up to be life-long members of the Church founded by Christ.

How to Have a Child Baptised at St Gerard's

As a rule, only children of parents who live within the parish boundaries or - if they live outside the parish - who attend weekly Mass at St Gerard's will be admitted to baptism here. All others ought to arrange baptism with their local parish priest. A list of contacts for parishes in the Archdiocese of Melbourne can be found here; for parishes in the Diocese of Sale (Eastwards from Cranbourne inclusively) see here.

Ideally, infants ought to be baptised as soon as possible. Many parents delay baptism by spending months preparing a large party. While baptism is certainly something worth celebrating, the focus is above all on the infant's becoming a child of God and therefore must not be unnecessarily delayed.

Soon after the birth, parishioners of St Gerard's must arrange to meet with the parish priest who will then be able to confirm a date and time for baptism. 

Godparents

In choosing godparents, the parents should be mindful that only one male or one female godparent, or one of each sex is to be asked (Canon 873); they must be at least sixteen years of age, be a practicing Catholic who has received the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion (Canon 874). A practicing Catholic is one who leads a life in harmony with the Faith and the role to be undertaken.

What to Bring to the Baptism

The only essentials to be brought to the baptism are the parents, the godparents and - of course - the baby. Babies are usually clothed in white as a symbol of the purity of the newly cleansed soul; the church has its own simple baptismal candles which are given over in the ceremony, but some parents like to bring a more elaborate and personal candle. They can be purchased in any shop that specialises in church supplies.

Adult Baptism

Not all candidates for baptism are infants! As men and women who have never been part of the Catholic Church come to discover the beauty, integrity and common sense of its doctrine, they may decide to inquire about being baptised. Such are heartily invited to make contact with the parish priest, who will be happy to be acquainted with them and lead them to a fuller knowledge of what the Church teaches and the reasons behind those teachings. At St Gerard's, the parish priest teaches a recurring introductory course in the Church's doctrines of faith and morals.

 

 

Matrimony

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptised persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (Canon 1055 § 1).

General Preparations for Marriage

All baptised Catholics intending to be married are obliged by the Church to wed in a Catholic church. This being the case, the couple must approach the parish priest at least six months prior to the intended date, as the priest is obliged to determine that the couple are indeed free to marry in the Church and to then settle on a day and time for the ceremony suitable to both himself and the couple. For this reason, it is wise to delay booking until the necessary paperwork has been completed.

RingsThe priest will complete a Pre-Nuptial Inquiry Form (determining freedom to marry) and a Notice of Intended Marriage (on behalf of the State – every Catholic priest is a marriage celebrant approved by the Australian Federal Government). To have these forms completed, a birth certificate (or at least a passport for those born overseas) and a baptismal certificate signed by the parish priest within the last six months must be provided.

In order to obtain a baptismal certificate, the full name and approximate date of baptism should be sent to the church of baptism, along with a stamped self-addressed envelope.

The couple will be required to undergo an approved seminar of marriage preparation and St Gerard’s recommends those conducted by the Life, Marriage and Family Office at the Cardinal Knox Centre in East Melbourne. Dates for 2017 are:

Seminar 1: February 18 & 19

Seminar 2: May 20 & 21

Seminar 3: August 19 & 20

Seminar 4: November 18 & 19

Further information on the paperwork to be submitted and the required marriage seminars can be found at the Life Marriage and Family Office website of the Melbourne Archdiocese.

Marriage at St Gerard’s

As a rule, only when at least one party is living within the parish boundaries will the couple be allowed to marry at St Gerard’s Church. Catholics living in another parish should marry in one of their own parishes.

Couples already cohabiting will be asked to separate for the remainder of the engagement that they may be properly disposed to receive the sacrament of matrimony. 

Where a Nuptial Mass is to be offered, it may be in either the ordinary or extraordinary (Latin) form.

The sanctity of the Nuptial Mass must be observed by both the wedding party and the invited guests. Wedding dresses and bridesmaids gowns must be of a modest design. Guests are asked to respect both the house of God and the couple to be married by maintaining a reverent silence throughout the ceremony. It goes without saying that wolf whistles and other such outbursts are completely out of place in the church.

Sacred music can help the devotion of those present at the Mass. While recorded music is not permitted at St Gerard’s, the parish has a list of organist-singers that can be hired at a reasonable cost. Secular songs of any kind are strictly forbidden during Mass.

If the couple wishes to produce their own booklet for the ceremony, the celebrant will be able to supply a number of electronic templates for this purpose.

By following the above guidelines, the couple will be certain of starting their new life together with God’s blessing upon them.

 

 

Christian Burial

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Apoc. 14:13)

The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal Mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ in whom resides our only hope. The Christian who dies in Christ Jesus is “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).

For the Christian the day of death inaugurates, at the end of his sacramental life, the fulfilment of his new birth begun at Baptism, the definitive “conformity” to “the image of the Son” conferred by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and participation in the feast of the Kingdom which was anticipated in the Eucharist – even if final purifications are still necessary for him in order to be clothed with the nuptial garment.

The Church who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey’s end, in order to surrender him into the Father’s hands”. She offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of his grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory. This offering is fully celebrated in the Eucharistic sacrifice; the blessings before and after Mass are sacramentals (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§ 1681 – 1682).

The purpose of the Catholic funeral rites is to pray for the dead, to commit the deceased to the earth in expectation of the general resurrection and to comfort the mourners. While it is appropriate to give thanks for the graces God bestowed on the deceased during life, the funeral rites are not to be confused with a “celebration of the life” of the departed, which is a secular celebration aptly carried out in a secular setting such as a wake or reception after the burial rites are concluded.

How does one Prepare for a Catholic Funeral?

The most important preparations begin before death, and consist in calling a priest to hear the confession of the one dying, to anoint him or her with the Oil of the Sick and to console him or her with the Body of Christ in Holy Viaticum (Holy Communion for the last time). This is of critical importance to ensure that the soul of the dying is fortified for the last struggles, as it prepares to meet its Creator and Judge. The administration of the “Last Rites” should be given sooner rather than later; when the person is still conscious and able to confess to the priest. As the Anointing has the secondary purpose of strengthening the body, those who are dying often rally if they are not too advanced in their illness.

As death approaches, the priest should be called again to give the Apostolic Blessing. This is a special faculty given to the priest to give a plenary indulgence at the moment of death, i.e. full remission of all punishment due to sins committed in this life. A person that has received this blessing in the right disposition will be admitted directly to the Beatific Vision of God in heaven.

After death, the family contacts their funeral director of choice, who will in turn arrange the date and time of the funeral rites with the parish priest. These normally consist of a Requiem Mass for the soul of the departed, and Christian Burial.

“The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honours the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2300). “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching” (cf. Canon 1176 § 3). Funeral rites are not to be performed at the place of cremation, and afterwards, the ashes are to be placed in a designated resting place, but not kept at home, not divided among family members, nor scattered to the winds. 

Preparing for the Requiem Mass

In accordance with universal and diocesan liturgical laws, the following must be observed:

Both the ordinary (English) and the extraordinary (Tridentine Latin) forms of the Requiem Mass are offered at St Gerard’s, according as the family chooses.

When the family would like booklets to be made up for distribution at the Mass, the funeral directors will take care of these needs. Funeral directors should be aware of the translation changes in the Roman Missal and prepare their booklets accordingly. 

Only the approved Scriptural texts as contained in the liturgical books may be used at the Mass. The family may obtain the various readings from the presbytery and choose the first 

and second reading, the responsorial psalm and the gospel with its acclamation. They may write their own “prayers of the faithful”, but these must be emailed to the celebrant for approval beforehand. At any stage, the celebrant of the Mass will be more than happy to help the family to select the texts, should this be requested.

A photograph of the deceased and only Christian symbols such as a rosary or a missal may be placed on the coffin in the church.

The family is welcome to pray the rosary before the Requiem Mass, but are asked to have a family member or friend lead the prayers. It is often impossible for the priest to do this, as he will be busy with the immediate preparations for the Mass.

Slideshows of the deceased are not permitted in the church at St Gerard’s; these remembrances are better shared with tears and laughter at the wake or the reception afterwards. Likewise, a eulogy is better deferred until the reception. However, if the family prefers, one short eulogy may be delivered before the beginning of the Mass. When the eulogy is to be read in the church, it must be respectful of the sacred place and neither contain jokes or crass references, nor exceed five minutes. A eulogy to be read in the church must be submitted to the celebrant at least the day before for approval.

Sacred music can help the devotion of those present at the Mass. While recorded music is not permitted at St Gerard’s, the parish has a list of organist-singers that can be hired at a reasonable cost. Secular songs of any kind are strictly forbidden during Mass. 

It is the simplicity of the Requiem Mass that makes it a beautiful ceremony that is respectful of the deceased. The celebrant will be pleased to assist the family in the preparation of the funeral rites as needed.