Joined: Tue May 16, 2006 2:30 pm
St Alphonsus on Baptism
Extract from St Alphonsus Liguori: Moral Theology, Bk. 6, nn. 95-7. Translation by John S. Daly
Baptism, therefore, coming from a Greek word that means ablution or immersion in water, is distinguished into Baptism of water ["fluminis"], of desire ["flaminis" = wind] and of blood.
We shall speak below of Baptism of water, which was very probably instituted before the passion of Christ the Lord, when Christ was baptised by John. But Baptism of desire is perfect conversion to God by contrition or love of God above all things accompanied by an explicit or implicit desire for true Baptism of water, the place of which it takes as to the remission of guilt, but not as to the impression of the [baptismal] character or as to the removal of all debt of punishment. It is called "of wind" ["flaminis"] because it takes place by the impulse of the Holy Ghost who is called a wind ["flamen"]. Now it is de fide that men are also saved by Baptism of desire, by virtue of the Canon Apostolicam, "de presbytero non baptizato" and of the Council of Trent, session 6, Chapter 4 where it is said that no one can be saved "without the laver of regeneration or the desire for it".
Baptism of blood is the shedding of one's blood, i.e. death, suffered for the Faith or for some other Christian virtue. Now this Baptism is comparable to true Baptism because, like true Baptism, it remits both guilt and punishment as it were ex opere operato. I say as it were because martyrdom does not act by as strict a causality ["non ita stricte"] as the sacraments, but by a certain privilege on account of its resemblance to the passion of Christ. Hence martyrdom avails also for infants seeing that the Church venerates the Holy Innocents as true martyrs. That is why Suarez rightly teaches that the opposing view [i.e. the view that infants are not able to benefit from Baptism of blood – translator] is at least temerarious. In adults, however, acceptance of martyrdom is required, at least habitually from a supernatural motive.
It is clear that martyrdom is not a sacrament, because it is not an action instituted by Christ, and for the same reason neither was the Baptism of John a sacrament: it did not sanctify a man, but only prepared him for the coming of Christ.
In Christ our King.