Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost—16 August AD 2020
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Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Minister and Intention for the Sacraments
“He put His fingers
into [the man’s] ears, and spitting, He touched the tongue: and looking
up to heaven He groaned, and said to him: ‘Ephpheta,’ which is
‘Be thou opened’....”
One of the obvious questions we have to ask upon reading today's Gospel,
is “Why did our Lord go through this strange ritual as he healed the
deaf and dumb man?” We see similar behavior, in another Gospel, as our
Lord spit and made clay to anoint the ears of a deaf man, who was then
What our Lord is doing here is establishing the manner in which His
Sacraments would work. He knew that, for the most part, His Sacraments
would affect spiritual realities, not physical. While it might not be
necessary to accompany the healing of a man's body with signs, the
healing of his soul would be much less obvious if not somehow marked
with an external act.
So, our Lord established the Sacraments as “Outward signs... to give
grace,” and, generally symbolizing the grace which they give.
For example, the pouring of water at Baptism symbolizes the washing away
of all original and actual sin. Or the bread and wine, which become the
Body and Blood of our Lord, symbolize the spiritual nourishment which
Over the centuries, our understanding of this principle has become more
and more refined. We have come to understand the things which are
necessary for the valid conferring of each of the Sacraments. In
essence, we know that for us to receive the Sacraments, there must be
general effort to “do as the Lord did.” The theologians have distilled
this down by saying that for a Sacrament to be valid, there must be
proper Matter, Form, Intention, and Minister.
Matter refers to the physical aspect of the Sacrament. We Baptize with
water, anoint with oil, consecrate bread and wine, and so on. In some
of the Sacraments; notably Marriage and Confession, this is not quite so
clearly obvious, yet there is always some outward physical
manifestation. A verbal or written exchange of vows, the confession of
sins.... A serious departure from the materials used by our Lord would
cause us not to receive the Sacrament—for instance the use of cake and
fruit juice instead of bread and wine.
The Form of a Sacrament is the words which indicate that it is being
conferred. “I Baptize the in the name of the Father....” “This is My
Body... This is My Blood.” and so on. These are examples of Sacraments
with fairly specific Forms, being directly given by Christ. Others were
composed by the Church at His command, “I forgive you your sins....” or
the forms which accompany the anointing of the sick in Extreme Unction.
Parents and God-parents should be vigilant at Baptisms—some Modernist
priests have taken the liberty of being “creative” with the
divinely appointed form of that all-essential Sacrament. Forms like “We
Baptize thee in the name of the Father….” and “I Baptize thee in the
name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier….”
I have even seen pictures of a priest baptizing a baby by dipping his
buttocks into the font!
Such sacrilegious rites are invalid, and must be repeated in the
traditional manner if the child is to become a Christian.
The Intention required to confer a Sacrament must be at least to do what
the Church intends us to do. (For the recipient: to receive God’s
graces offered to us through the Church.) It is better, of course, for
us to have a specific understanding of the Sacrament, and to form our
intentions according to that understanding. In Confession, for
instance, we should intend to have our sins forgiven—by a priest, who in
turn, should intend to forgive them.
Sacrament would not be validly received if either the minister or the
recipient had a positive intention not to give or to receive it. In
practice this is not a problem. The presumption of the Church is that
if the ritual is followed, both had the requisite intentions. For
example, we don't have to worry about the intention of the priest who
baptized us, or the bishop who confirmed us. If they followed the
traditional ritual, we can simply put the question out of our mind.
Finally, for the Sacraments to be validly conferred, they must be given
by the proper Minister. Now, this varies from one to the other
Sacrament. Anyone can administer Baptism, although under normal
circumstances this is reserved to the parish priest or deacon. In
Marriage, it is actually the bridal couple who administer the Sacrament
to one another, although the Church does require a Catholic marriage to
be witnessed by two witnesses and a priest or deacon. A bishop is
required for ordinations to Holy Orders, and is usually the minister of
Confirmation, although under some circumstances this can be done by a
priest. Confession and Extreme Unction require a priest or bishop.
Only a priest or bishop can offer Mass, but distribution of Holy
Communion may be delegated to a deacon—as the bread and wine, once
consecrated, always remain the Body and Blood of Christ.
is useful to know something about these various minima required in the
Sacraments—particularly in these days when they are often abused by the
Modernists. However, we should insure that we don't develop too much of
a “legalistic” mentality, analyzing all of these aspects each and every
time we see a Sacrament conferred.
shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the Sacraments are confected to
make us holy, to draw us nearer to God, and to increase sanctifying
grace in our souls.
Above all, we must not forget that these “Outward Signs” bring about
miracles which are far more significant than any of their earthly
counterparts. More than any bodily healing, or even the resurrection of
the dead, for they heal the soul, and even resurrect it from the death
Always remember that
the Sacraments are tokens of God's love for us—and should mark our love
for Him in return.