St Joseph and St Mary Parishes in Freeport, IL

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Symbolism in the Church #26

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This baptismal font is more recently made by a parishioner. This one is simpler in design. It is octagonal in shape with a stainless-steel bowl inserted in it. It has four small wheels on the bottom that makes it more mobile. We pull it forward for baptisms and bring it down the steps from the sanctuary for the Easter Vigil Mass on the Saturday of Easter. The insert allows us to offer the holy water that was used for the baptism for the parents or person to take home with them.

Baptism is a very special sacrament that we receive to invite Jesus into our lives for the very first time. For most cradle Catholics, our parents did this for us when we were infants yet. Later, we would make a willed decision ourselves. Baptism is the Sacrament that initiates us with a relationship with Jesus. Jesus now enters into our lives and offers us all the graces we need for salvation. The Heavenly Father becomes our true Father in heaven and is there for us for the rest of our lives when we need His help. We become God’s children at Baptism. It makes us able to receive His graces. We are also forgiven of all our sins; original and actual, when we get baptized. Our relationship with God, others and ourselves is made whole again.

Baptism is the normal means by which we are saved. Jesus Himself said, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). It was so important to Jesus that He himself allowed Himself to be baptized in the Jordan as an example for us (Mt 3:13-17). So Jesus is offering us Baptism for salvation as a way to accepting Him. But what happens to those who do not know about this offering? Though as humans, we are required to accept this grace through Baptism, God is not limited to that rule. Jesus is the one in total authority, so it is up to Him in those cases. Yet that is not a good reason to reject Baptism, for anybody who does know of this great offering should take it.

The right side has a smaller black marble side altar. Today, we use modern side altars for decorations or putting statues on or paintings above for veneration. Before the second Vatican Council, they were used to celebrate Mass on. It would be common in any given church that there may be two priests celebrating Mass at the same time; one on the main altar and another on the side altar. Today, multiple priests can con-celebrate one Mass celebration at a time. Each priest in the liturgy is still considered to be celebrating their own Mass with their own intentions. Before the Second Vatican Council that was not the case. Each priest used to have to celebrate his own Mass with his own server if he had one with his own altar available.

This still could be done I suppose, but not usually. This side altar has decorations on it to give more focus on the occasions, liturgical seasons or specific feast days. At times you may see a large print Bible on it, reminding us to read the Bible. Candles are usually there to remind us to be a light to this community and to the world. Other time we may see a crucifix to remind us of the cross that we are all called to carry when Jesus said “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me…” (Mt 17:24). Even the decorations carry a message and a reminder of God’s ways. As you reflect on everything in the church, what message do you get?

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