by HFH Reuvers


Baptism, confirmation, confession and extreme unction are sacraments by which we lay off our old selves and are born again in the Catholic Church. They are marks and signs which Jesus himself instituted and which effectuate what they are indicating. I will describe them in relation with the experiences that I myself had with them.

Jesus asked Saint John Baptist to baptize him in the river Jordan. We see in old pictures how the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the shape of a dove. In my childhood, I learned at school: "In case of need, everybody is allowed and obliged to baptize", as if it were a sort of magic action that decides whether we will go to heaven or to hell. The baptizer has to pour water on the head of the person which is being baptized, and to pronounce the baptism formula: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." Nowadays, the priests prefer to explain that the Church admits the person who is baptized in the local Catholic community he belongs to.
When I was seven, I was first allowed to receive holy communion. I will speak about this later on, in relation with holy Mass. But, to receive Jesus in my heart, I first had to confess my sins before a priest. Every time you regret your sins, you can receive remission of them in the confessional box. Of course, I have made use of this very often.
When I was some ten years of age, the bishop came to our parish to confirm me and my class mates. Standing upright, we sang "Veni Creator Spiritus" - "Come, Creator, Holy Spirit". Thereafter, the bishop gave us by turns a touch on our cheeks. This way he knighted us, so to speak, and enrolled us as soldiers in the army of Our Lord. Two years later on, we had to solemnly renew the promises we were supposed to have made when we were baptized. We had a little mission magazine, called 'The Little Apostle', which made me feel Jesus called me to become a missionary. However, the changes I had to go through as an adolescent and a seminarist during the years of the second Vatican council were too great to perpetuate my vocation.
Formerly, extreme unction used to be administered to the dying on their death beds. Nowadays, it is replaced with the unction of the sick and the aged during a divine service in the church.

I am convinced all good people will eventually go to heaven. I think the church gives room to this opinion by its doctrine about the 'baptism of desire'.