Q: I am trying to make sense of Rubrics 49 – 53 in the Easter Vigil. The rubrics use the terms “infants”, “children” and “adults.” We will be baptizing children ranging in age from first grade to 7th grade. No infants will be baptized.
Pastorally, because of relative immaturity, I intend to treat the younger children as “infants”, expecting that the parents and godparents will carry the responsibility of the Profession of Faith, with the children’s participation, if they are able.
Similarly, it seems to make pastoral sense to treat the older children as adults, questioning them directly about their profession of faith, with their parents’ and godparents’ support.
HOWEVER, that questioning would seem to presume that they are going to be confirmed, when I think it would be of most pastoral benefit to leave that until later so that they can benefit from more preparation for that additional sacrament. I could be argued into confirming the older children. But I do note that Rubric 53 seems to reserve confirmation to adults.
An additional question: Rubric 51 seems to state that only infants receive the anointing with Chrism. Isn’t it to be understood that children also receive Chrism if they are not going to be confirmed?
A: Welcome to the labyrinth of Christian Initiation.
The Catholic Church has two baptismal ritual books, as you know: The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and the Rite of Baptism for Children. Canon law makes the distinction this way: “What is prescribed in the canons on the baptism of an adult is applicable to all who are no longer infants but have attained the use of reason” (canon 852 §1).
Consequently, when the missal refers to infants at the Easter Vigil, it means those who are being baptized according to the Rite of Baptism for Children – any kid from newborn to first communion age.
After that, though, the RCIA kicks in.
Canon law again: The priest confirms a person he baptizes “who is no longer an infant or one already baptized whom he admits into the full communion of the Catholic Church” (canon 883 §2). And then, “A presbyter who has this faculty must use it for those in whose favor the faculty was granted” (885 §2.) That’s right, “must use it.”
In other words, every priest who baptizes anyone who is not a canonical infant is obliged to confirm the same child. As the ceremony continues, first communion follows.
You are not alone in your thoughts about what is pastorally advisable. According to CARA research from just a few years ago, 53% of the children of catechetical age being baptized at the Easter Vigil in parishes in the United States are not being confirmed. We have 53% noncompliance on this imperative from the Code of Canon Law. However, canon law states the reason as a benefit for the child “in whose favor the faculty was granted.” The child receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. That should not be delayed.
In short, any child you are planning to baptize and commune is a child you must also confirm. Any child below the age of first communion, you only baptize. The children who have reached the age of reason are to respond to the baptismal promises themselves.
As to anointing with chrism on the crown of the head, that is done for any infant baptized according to the Rite of Baptism for Children. Those who have reached the age of reason are not anointed on the crown of the head because they will be confirmed right after their baptism.