At the very heart of Catholic Christianity is the idea that God gives himself to us through human signs and gestures. God works mysteriously and invisibly, but in a way suited to us as human beings. Sacraments are about meeting God in a truly human way.
The Catholic Church celebrates seven sacraments: Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation (Sacraments of Initiation); Marriage and Ordination (Sacraments of Order); and Reconciliation or Confession and Anointing of the Sick (Sacraments of Healing).
Sacrament of Baptism
Congratulations on the birth of your child. To bring new life into the world is indeed both a very special gift and a challenge. Thank you too for wanting your child to join the family of the church through Baptism. You have decided to give your child the chance to grow up in Christ. We want to help you carry out your decision by giving you our wholehearted support.
Naturally, you want the Baptism to be a special family occasion. You will no doubt be inviting relatives and friends to the ceremony. There is however, more to it than that. The reason we make a fuss about it is because it is a family occasion for the parish too. Your child is about to become a child of God and a member of God’s family, the Church.
When you ask for your child to be baptised it is your faith that is important. At the ceremony, you speak on your child’s behalf. You present your child for Baptism and promise to nurture the new life of grace your child receives. So parents to attend some Baptismal preparations, if you have attended a session in preparation for Baptism in the last five years, there is no need to attend. At this meeting the parish priest will hand you a form which you must complete and return prior to the baptism.
Your child’s Baptism is an occasion for the whole parish. It is important for the parish to mark the occasion too. The normal times for a Baptism in the parish is at 12.00 noon after the 10.30am Mass. The service will normally be conducted by the either the parish priest or deacon. Sometimes more than one child being baptised, it is essential that everyone is on time at the Church. Otherwise the other family(ies) with their child(ren) will be kept waiting.
Choose your child’s Godparents with care! They must share your faith and be at least 16 years old. It is customary to have two Godparents though only one is required. Godparents must be Catholic. The reason for this is that they understand and share the responsibility of handing on the faith to your child as (s)he grows up. Non-Catholics can be chosen as witnesses to stand with Godparent(s) during the ceremony. Please note that the Catholic parent may be asked to present a copy of their own Baptismal Certificate. Failure to do so may result in the deferral of the child’s baptism.
The Baptism of older children
Sometimes parents request Baptism of an older child. The comments concerning Baptism of babies referred to above also apply to the baptism of older children. However, once a child reaches the age of reason (about the age of seven or eight), we have to make sure the child has been properly instructed before Baptism can take place. It may be worth noting that having a child baptised in Holy Cross and Saint Francis does not guarantee a place for that child in either Holy Cross Catholic School or any of the St John Paul II Multi Academy schools.
If you do not live in the Holy Cross and Saint Francis Parish
Strictly speaking your child should be baptised in the parish where you live. However, you may regard yourself as a member of “the worshipping community” of Holy Cross and Saint Francis, attending Mass here regularly. Even so, it would be courteous to inform your parish priest and ask for written permission for the baptism to take place here.
Parent/Guardian (or Godparents) sometimes are unsure about what they should give as an offering. It may be helpful to know that a usual offering is £50.
After the Baptism, the Priest will add your child’s name to the Baptismal Register. Your child will be able to receive a Baptismal certificate at any future date. Please make sure, therefore, that the form you receive is filled in correctly.
Sacrament of Holy Communion
The biblical foundation for Holy Communion is what Christ Himself did at the Last Supper. As narrated by St. Matthew, Jesus first offered the apostles what He was about to change, then changed the bread and wine, and then gave them Communion. (see Matthew 26:26-28)
St. John, who does not give us the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, devotes a whole chapter to Christ’s promise of giving His followers His own flesh to eat and His own blood to drink. What Christ emphasizes is the absolute necessity of being nourished by His Body and Blood if the supernatural life received at Baptism is to be sustained. (see John 6: 53-58)
Throughout the gospels and St. Paul, Christ uses words like “take,” “eat,” “drink,” always clearly indicating that the Eucharist is to be taken into the mouth and consumed. No less, and far more, than material food and drink are necessary to sustain the natural life of the body, so Holy Communion must be received to support and nourish the supernatural life of the soul. Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present, ‘body, blood, soul, and divinity’ in Holy Communion.
Effects of Holy Communion – Since the earliest times, the benefits of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ were spelled out to encourage frequent, even daily, Holy Communion. So, too, the church officially teaches that “Every effect which bodily food and bodily drink produce in our corporeal life, by preserving this life, increasing this life, healing this life, and satisfying this life – is also produced by this Sacrament in the spiritual life” (Council of Florence, November 22, 1439). So:
- Holy Communion preserves the supernatural life of the soul by giving the communicant supernatural strength to resist temptation, and by weakening the power of concupiscence. It reinforces the ability of our free will to withstand the assaults of the devil. In a formal definition, the Church calls Holy Communion “an antidote by which we are preserved from grievous sins” (Council of Trent, October 11, 1551).
- Holy Communion increases the life of grace already present by vitalizing our supernatural life and strengthening the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit we possess.
- Holy Communion cures the spiritual diseases of the soul by cleansing it of venial sins
- Holy Communion gives us a spiritual joy in the service of Christ, in defending His cause, in performing the duties of our state of life, and in making the sacrifices required of us in imitating the life of our Saviour.
First Holy Communion
Children in Holy Cross and Saint Francis Parish usually receive Holy Communion for the first time when they are in ‘school year’ 3 (7-8), on a Saturday in June. As this is a parish celebration children from Holy Cross School and from other (non-Catholic) schools make their First Holy Communion together. There are special arrangements are be made for the preparation to receive the Sacrament for children attending non-catholic schools. In certain cases different arrangements can be made, please speak to the Parish Priest. Please also see the ‘Information for First Holy Communion’
Sacrament of Marriage
(… without love I am nothing at all … St Paul to the Corinthians) (1Cor.13:2)
You have decided to get married. Congratulations. It is a happy and exciting time for you. Naturally, you want to make plans and you want everything to be perfect on your wedding day. Marriage is a Sacrament. Choosing to be married in a Catholic Church implies that you have a real spiritual dimension to your life; that you understand the profound nature and commitment of the vows you make before God, asking Jesus to be part of your married life together and the blessing of the Church in your marriage.
GETTING MARRIED AT HOLY CROSS AND SAINT FRANCIS – We follow the Birmingham Diocesan directions and require at least six months notice for a wedding. Generally speaking, we would ask, therefore, if you wish to be married at Holy Cross and Saint Francis that you are over the age of 18 (16 with parental permission):
- You, or your boy/girlfriend have your home within Holy Cross and Saint Francis parish;
- You are going to live in the parish after you are married;
- You or your boy/girlfriend are members of the worshipping community of Holy Cross and Saint Francis, living outside the boundaries of the parish;
- You or your boy/girlfriend have strong family links with Holy Cross and Saint Francis.
- You should be aware that it is not possible for people of the same gender to marry in the Catholic Church.
MARRIAGE COURSE – The Church cares about you and your future life together. All couples are required to take part in a marriage preparation course. At Holy Cross and Saint Francis we organise a one day course led by trained couples experienced in family life. It is an opportunity to meet with other couples who are also preparing for marriage. The date of the course can be obtained from the Parish Priest.
WEDDING SERVICE DETAILS – Marriages usually take place at a mutually convenient time usually on Saturdays. A wedding rehearsal is organised sometime during the week prior to the wedding. Hopefully, this will help to put you at ease and give an opportunity for the readers to practice.
PHOTOGRAPHS AND VIDEOS – The ceremony of marriage is a religious service. This must be kept in mind when planning photographs or a video of the occasion. Please note that there are laws on copyright. A video licence is required by civil law to record a wedding ceremony. Most companies who specialise in weddings will already have an appropriate licence. If you intend to print an order of service and include verses of hymns, you must make sure that these hymns are covered by our parish copyright licence. Note also, that if you intend to use pre-recorded music, a licence is required.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED – Catholics must provide a new copy of their baptismal certificate. This can be obtained from your Church of baptism and must be issued not more than six months before the day of the wedding. Confirmation details are usually included on this certificate.
FOR NON CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS – You must provide a copy of your baptismal certificate. Also, a letter from your parents/guardian, stating that to the best of their knowledge, you have not been through any form of marriage, civil or religious.
FOR NON-BAPTISED – A letter from a parent/guardian stating that to the best of their knowledge you have not been through any form of marriage either, civil or religious, is also required.
CATHOLIC DECLARATION – A Catholic, marrying a non-Catholic Christian or non-baptised person you will be required to make the following declaration:
“I declare that I am ready to uphold my Catholic faith and to avoid all dangers of falling away from it. Moreover, I sincerely undertake, that I will do all I can with the unity of our partnership, to have all the children of our marriage baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church.”
CIVIL LAW REQUIREMENTS – All couples getting married must contact the Civil Registrar for Marriages and receive an “Authority for Marriage”, two are required for each Marriage. This can be issued up to one year before the marriage and should be done as soon as possible. For marriages at Holy Cross and Saint Francis, please contact Birmingham Registry Office, Holliday Street B1 1JJ Telephone: 0121 675 1000 option 4. You will be required to pay a fee of £33.50 for each notice. (accurate May 2017).
PLANNING HELP – There is a very useful website with a great deal of information; www.foryourwedding.org (April 2018) it includes all the possible readings (with individual explanations).
HOLY CROSS & SAINT FRANCIS WEDDING PACKAGE – If you would like to take advantage of the ‘wedding package’ we offer then, for a fee of £400 (2020) the organist, church fees, clergy stipend, marriage certificates and flowers (two pedestals and display before the altar) will all be included, please speak to the Parish Priest.
Sacrament of Confirmation
Confirmation – Children at Holy Cross and Saint Francis are usually confirmed at ages 10 to 11 (Yr 6). Arrangements are be made for children attending non-catholic schools. In certain cases different arrangements can be made, please speak to the Parish Priest.
Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession
The Parish Priest is available for confession in Church every Saturday after the 10am Mass (10.30-11.30am approx) and before the 6.00pm Mass (5.30-5.45pm approx), or by a mutually convenient time by contacting him by phone 01213512161.
Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick
The Anointing of the Sick is a remarkable sign of God’s great love for us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s section on the Anointing of the Sick defines the purpose of the sacrament as “the conferral of a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age.” (Catechism, 1527). The classical description which the Bible gives of the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is found in the Epistle of St. James: “Is any one among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters [priests] of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15)
The oil used is called Oil of the Sick. It is one of the three Holy oils blessed by the bishop of the diocese at his cathedral on Holy Thursday morning, the other two Holy Oils being Holy Chrism and the Oil of Catechumens, which is used in Baptism. Oil of the Sick is pure olive oil—nothing being added except for the blessing of the bishop. The essence of the sacrament lies in the actual anointing and the short prayer which accompanies the anointing. In giving the sacrament, the priest anoints the sick person on the forehead and hands. In common with all the sacraments, Anointing of the Sick confers sanctifying grace and its own special sacramental grace. The primary purpose of the special grace of Anointing of the Sick is to comfort and to strengthen the soul of the sick person. This is the grace that quiets anxiety and dissipates fear.It is the grace which enables the sick person to embrace God’s will and to face the possibility of death without apprehension. It is the grace which gives the soul the strength