Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Outward Signs Of Inward Faith

By Zoe Cannon
Celebrating the traditions and blessings of our Catholic faith and family. Photo courtesy of Zoe Cannon

“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28: 19-20. 

Baptism is the one sacrament that all Christian denominations share. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we are reminded that the liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. God gives us spiritual gifts through the sacraments instituted by Christ, which are entrusted to the Church for our salvation. The ceremony and items used for the sacraments are the outward signs; the spiritual gift is the inward grace that provides us with the life of God in our soul. 

We are all born with the stain of original sin as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. Baptism opens the door for salvation, and is the first of three sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church followed by Confirmation and Holy Communion. 

  • The Letters of Paul in the New Testament always invoked grace and peace upon the people. Baptism played an important role in his apostolic preaching, for the remission of sin, and salvation. 
  • St. Augustine was the first to speak about sacraments being signs of grace. 
  • Peter Lombard, a 12th century Catholic theologian, penned the phrase “outward signs of inward grace.”
  • St. Thomas Aquinas adopted this phrase, and the theology behind it, and the Council of Trent declared that these signs have the power to sanctify grace to human souls.  

Receiving the sacraments is a fundamental expression of who we are as Catholics.  Parents can best prepare their children to receive the sacraments by first serving as an example with participation in the Sunday Eucharist. The faith formation, participation, and preparation for each sacrament become a community responsibility by helping parents bring their children into full discipleship with Christ. In choosing a godparent his or her role is more than being a friend or relative who encourages Christian behavior.  A godparent also represents the Church, and the community of faith that the child is being baptized into.  

Our son Daniel and his wife Brea (Holder) Cannon, baptized their first child in August at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis. Father Guy Roberts welcomed Vella Ann Cannon as a new member of the Catholic Church.   

There were many outward blessings on this special day. Vella Ann’s godmother had a special gift made for the occasion. A glass cruet was etched with her name, date and the parish where she was baptized. Her parents filled the container with holy water from the baptismal font to take home to bless her each day. The baptismal gown Vella Ann wore was 110 years old. In 1908, her great-great aunt Helen Marie Shaw was the first to wear the gown when she was baptized at the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier (the Old Cathedral) in Vincennes. Twenty-four members of the Shaw-Cannon family, including Vella Ann’s paternal grandfather and her father, wore this beautiful white, linen gown.  The tradition is about much more than the gown worn; it is the continuation of faith and the infusion of grace in this sacrament that makes this ritual special. The care of this gown, and the list of all who have worn it will continue to be passed down in the family. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!