The Divine Praises at Adoration

And more on unauthorized baptisms.
by Father Edward McNamara | Source:

ROME ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Question: What is the most appropriate moment to pray the Divine Praises during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: immediately following Benediction or once the Sacrament has been returned to the tabernacle? -- A.D., Boston, Massachusetts

Answer: The Divine Praises, or the prayers of reparation for profanity and blasphemy, are a sequence of acclamations, chiefly composed by Jesuit Luigi Felici in 1797, blessing God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and all the angels and saints.

The acclamations are usually recited publicly immediately after the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

While the rubrics do not specify that the Divine Praises be recited at all, when they are recited, it is customary to do so before reposing the Blessed Sacrament. This is the Holy Father's practice after imparting Benediction on concluding the Eucharistic procession of the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Monsignor Peter Elliott ably describes the rites concluding Benediction in his renowned ceremonies book: "If the Blessed Sacrament is to be reposed in the tabernacle, then (after the Divine Praises and) during a psalm, hymn, acclamation or appropriate music, the celebrant or the assisting deacon or priest goes to the altar. He genuflects, turns the back of the monstrance toward himself, removes the lunette and places it in the pyx, which he closes. He moves the monstrance to the left of the corporal and may veil it. He then takes the pyx and places it in the tabernacle, genuflecting before he locks the door.

"(If the tabernacle is in a chapel, a server should place a humeral veil over the shoulders of the celebrant or the assistant deacon or priest before he removes the lunette from the monstrance. Torch bearers should precede him to the chapel and then return with him to the sanctuary, unless it is thought more convenient to go directly to the sacristy.) All bow to the altar (or genuflect if the tabernacle is behind or on it) and return to the sacristy led by the thurifer. Sacristans and/or servers carry out their respective duties in the sanctuary and in the sacristy."

Given this description, and the most common practice of the Church, it seems more appropriate to pray the Divine Praises before reposition and not after the tabernacle is closed.

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Follow-up: Unauthorized Baptism

Several readers wrote in reply to our 
column on unauthorized baptism by a grandmother.

A California reader asked: "You remarked that a child should not be baptized if there were no assurance he would be brought up Catholic. What happened to the old idea of baptizing a child whose parents were lackadaisical Catholics in the hope that the grace of the sacrament would bring him back into the Church? That seems to make more sense than not to baptize him at all."

The two cases are not quite the same. As our reader points out, the Church will usually proceed with baptism in the case of children whose parents are less then assiduous in practicing their faith. This is both for the good of the child and because pastoral experience shows that the occasion of a child's baptism can often awaken the parents from their religious torpor.

Even if this does not happen, there is usually a reasonable hope that the child will be offered some opportunity for religious education at the time of first Communion and confirmation.

In the case we dealt with, only one parent was Christian and both had decided not to baptize the child. So there was fairly scant hope of the child being given a Christian upbringing.

Some reasonable, albeit far from certain, assurance of a Christian education is required before baptism. This is because -- barring extraordinary interventions -- sacramental grace is called to be developed within the context of a constantly developing relationship with God and God's family, the Church.

This contextual development of the life of grace is something willed by God as grace perfects, but does not substitute, the natural process of human flourishing.

Regarding the validity of the baptism a reader pointed out: "A baptism using the proper intention, form and matter is always valid ... though perhaps illicit. The child was, in fact, baptized and should be recorded as such. The matter that the parent did not agree is moot in regards sacramental action."

Our reader is correct that the validity depends on the correct intent and the use of the proper matter and form and that the parent's opposition has no bearing at all on the baptism's sacramental validity. This point was made in the original article.

Where our reader goes beyond the original article, and rightly so, is with regards to the registration of the baptism. I had proposed a strategy through which the grandmother could achieve the baptism while avoiding a family feud. However, if this were not possible, then the parish priest should duly register the baptism while noting the special circumstances.

The grandmother should then take the necessary prudential steps to inform the parents, even, as a last resort, in her will, in order to avoid a possible future invalid baptismal ceremony of a person who is already a member of Christ's mystical body.

A rather unusual e-mail came from South Africa: "A couple in our parish had a premature baby who was seriously ill, and in fact, in danger of dying. The baby was kept in an incubator in the intensive care unit of the local hospital. The parents desired the child to be baptized, but because of the medical circumstances, it was not practical.

"The priest then baptized the infant's brother 'by proxy,' that is, the brother was not baptized, but was baptized on behalf of the infant who was in danger of death.

"Is baptism by proxy allowed in these circumstances? What would the rite be? For example, which child's name does the priest say? Could the priest baptize 'through' the glass of the hospital without water? If baptism by proxy is allowed, can one extend that to the other sacraments? Do pastoral needs supersede the liturgical norms, as circumstances require?"

Sad though it is, as the child in question eventually died, it is necessary to admit that the priest made a grave mistake by this action.

The only sacrament that may be celebrated by proxy is matrimony. All of the others require some degree of physical presence and contact of the person receiving the sacrament.

This is not something that the Church can change for she has received the sacraments, along with their inherent limitations, from Christ himself.

In such cases it is almost always possible to baptize the child. A few drops of water on the head, even from a syringe, while saying the proper baptismal formula would have sufficed. If it were impossible for the priest to enter the ward, a doctor or nurse could have performed the baptism.

All the same, although the problem of infants who die before baptism is still being studied from the theological point of view, the Church is confident that a merciful God will not leave the parent's desires and prayers unanswered.

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