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The full immersion of baptism

Australian Jesuit Fr Richard Leonard, author of Hatch, Match & Dispatch: A Catholic Guide to Sacraments, speaks to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications on the meaning of baptism. He tells an entertaining story of a baptism in his family and refers to an Irish Jesuit missionary who taught him a great theological lesson on the sacrament.

Fr Leonard says that he attends to pastoral situations in his book and that he tries to humanise the sacraments in creative ways. He jokingly describes his first baptism as a deacon when he was asked to baptise his niece Emily. He and his brother got into a fight with their mother in the church who strongly resisted the idea of a full immersion baptism, which is becoming more popular these days.

Fr Leonard also talks about a pastoral situation that he was not prepared for. He realised that theology school said nothing about what to do when a lesbian couple asked him to baptise their child. He consulted the parish priest on the matter, the last Irish Jesuit in Australia, who put him straight by reminding him that “it is Christ who baptises”.  He also refers to the film, The Shawshank Redemption, which has a strong baptismal theme when one of the main characters, Andy Dufresne, “crawls through a mile of excrement to come out clean the other side”.

This podcast series on the seven sacraments will continue in the coming weeks.