(The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation)
BAPTISM is the first of the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church to be received. It opens the doors to the Christian Faith and to the other Mysteries (Sacraments). Without Baptism, none of the other Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church could ever be received. It is also the formal reception of a new member into our Catholic family, our Maronite family, and on the local level, our parish family.
The pastor of a parish is the father of his spiritual family and has great responsibilities toward his spiritual children, thus, the term “Father” (Abouna). Among his many duties, he is to remind the parents that their spiritual responsibilities are just as equal as their others duties toward their children. The Catholic Church insists that parish priests see to it that parents, or at least one parent, take their spiritual responsibilities seriously before Baptizing their children. The entire responsibility of the Faith and a commitment to that Faith falls, first and foremost, on the parents, and then, on the sponsors (commonly called Godparents). In the celebration of the Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism, the priest plants the “seed” of the Faith and he must be morally convinced that the parents will “water” that newly planted seed. Otherwise, there is the risk that the seed will die.
The priest must see if the parents are registered parishioners of his parish. This basically shows that the parents have the intention of being a part of the local “Family of Faith.” Through parish registration, parishioners have the privilege of receiving all of the spiritual benefits offered by the Church through their parish priest. Of those, the most important, of course, is the reception of the Mysteries (Sacraments). On the other hand, a registered parishioner is also bound by certain obligations: attending the Qurbono (Mass) at the parish church on a regular basis thereby contributing to the spiritual bond which ties the parish family together, and using the weekly offering envelopes thereby contributing to the temporal responsibilities of the parish.
Godparents must also be responsibly chosen by the parents. The Church teaches that they must “help the Baptized person lead a Christian life in harmony with Baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations connected with it.”
Regarding the choosing of Godparents, the Catholic Church insists that parish priests be sure:
• That they have received the Mysteries (Sacraments) of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Eucharist;
• That they are practicing Catholics;
• That they are married in the Church;
• That if Godparents are not members of the parish where the Baptism is being celebrated, they must present a letter of good standing signed by a parish priest of the church where they are members. (A member of an Orthodox Church may also serve as one of the Godparents, but a letter from his/her priest is needed as well). Letters of good standing must be presented at least one week before the Baptism;
• That a Godparent cannot be the father or mother of the child;
• That both Godparents must be at least 18 years old, according to the norms established by the Maronite Church.
In the Maronite Church, the Mystery of Chrism (Sacrament of Confirmation) is administered at the same time as Baptism. Parents should be very careful to be sure that the Mystery (Sacrament) of Confirmation is not received again when the child is older.
Baptisms are usually celebrated on Saturdays or Sundays but arrangements for weekday Baptisms can also be made with the priest. There is no fee for a Baptism. It is customary that a donation, according to the means for the family, be made to the parish church and a stipend given to the priest who celebrates the Baptism.
The Mystery of Crowning
(The Sacrament of Marriage)
The pastor of a parish is the father of his spiritual family and has great responsibilities toward his spiritual children, thus, the term “Father” (Abouna). Among his many duties, he is to remind the engaged couple that their spiritual responsibilities, are just as equal as their temporal ones, and must play a major role in their life as a couple.
The couple must meet with the pastor for their wedding plans. Arrangements for Marriage must be made in advance. Some cases may require up to one year depending on the circumstances. At this meeting, the pastor will determine if both parties are able to have the Mystery of Crowning (Sacrament of Marriage) celebrated in the Catholic Church. Based on the given information, he will also determine if they are eligible to be married in the parish. The parties must be (or at least one of them) registered parishioners. This basically shows that they have the intention of being a part of the local “Family of Faith.”
Through parish registration, parishioners have the privilege of receiving all of the spiritual benefits offered by the Church through their parish priest. Of those, the most important, of course, is the reception of the Mysteries (Sacraments). On the other hand, a registered parishioner is also bound by certain other obligations: attending the Qurbono (Mass) at the parish church on a regular basis, thereby contributing to the spiritual bond which ties the parish family together, and using the weekly offering envelopes thereby contributing to the temporal responsibilities of the parish.
If the priest sees that the couple is able to be married in the parish church then a tentative wedding date can be established. The date is tentative because it depends upon the fulfillment of all of the marriage requirements listed below:
• Bride and Groom to be must present an original Certificate of Baptism. This certificate cannot be more than six months old and can easily be obtained by contacting the church of baptism.
• If one of them is not a member of the parish, a letter from his/her parish priest must be presented stating that he/she has never been married. If the party is unknown to the parish priest, then two witnesses, who have known the party for several years, must sign affidavits before the priest that the party has never been married before, either in a Catholic ceremony, another church ceremony, or by the civil authorities.
• The couple must attend together the Pre-Cana Preparation classes, or other equivalent marriage preparation classes, required by the Church.
• A civil marriage license from the civil authorities must be given to the priest at least seven days prior to the celebration of the marriage.
The Catholic Church prescribes that the celebration of the Sacrament is to be celebrated in a sacred place, i.e., the parish church (not in a private home, reception hall, garden, etc.). Marriages are usually celebrated on Saturdays and Sundays, but arrangements for weekday Marriages can also be made with the pastor. It is customary that an appropriate donation, according to the means of the couple, be made to the parish church and a stipend given to the priest who celebrates the Marriage.
Other Important policies:
• The Dress Code of the bride and her bridesmaids must be modest and respectable. No bare shoulders, low cuts or plunging necklines are permitted. The church sacredness must be respected.
• The Wedding music must be liturgical. Hymns used by the Roman Catholic Church are acceptable and must be approved by the Pastor. However, pop music and movie themes are not permitted in the Maronite Marriage ceremony.
• Flowers for the church should be appropriately placed in consultation with the Pastor.
• Rose petals, Balloons, bubbles, confetti, rice, unity candles and anything else that detract from the sacredness of the Sacrament are not permitted inside the church.
• The bride and groom must be on time for the celebration of their wedding. In consideration of practical circumstances and as a matter of courtesy, the priest and the guests should not have to wait more than 10 minutes for them to arrive. Due to the parish Mass schedule latest time a wedding can be scheduled on Saturday is 3:00 pm.
• Marriages are never celebrated during Lent, unless there is a very serious reason to do so.
• Photographers and videographers are to observe the Eparchial policy. They must contact the pastor one week prior to the wedding ceremony for service guidelines.
• Musicians, Soloists/choir for the wedding ceremony must be approved by the pastor. The parish does provide an organist/soloist for your ceremony if you wish, their fee is $150.00.
An Affidavit of Freedom to Marry is Needed
Parishioners who plan to get married outside the United States of America, and need a testimonial for Free State to Marry, must contact the Pastor six (6) months before they travel. The reason being is because the Affidavit of Freedom to marry must be obtained from the Office of the Bishop in Brooklyn, New York. It is hoped that this projected period will allow enough time for the approval to return from the Office of the Bishop, in New York.