A Question for Catholic Godfather Fans, (or just Catholics)

In The Godfather during the christening scene, the priest is shown breathing air (three times) on the baby, then he sprinkles what looks like pale dirt (incense?) on the baby, then annoints the baby with oil, (I guess) and then he pours water on the baby.

Okay, now I understand the water signifies baptism, I sort of understand the annointing with oil, (if that’s what it was) but what’s with the other stuff? Is he annointing the baby with air and earth? I thought the whole touching stuff to air, earth, fire, and water was something associated with witchcraft, which the church has never been too keen on.

Or was the christening scene embellished for the movie? I can’t imagine why it would be, but who knows? Anyone?

IANA Catholic, I think it’s supposed to be ash. I’m not sure but I remember reading something about catholics having their heads annointed with ash(I just can’t remember why).

HPL is thinking of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The ashes on the forehead signify repentance for sins. I’m no longer Catholic, so I haven’t kept up with the christening traditions, but that’s probably related.

I haven’t seen the movie in a long time, so I can’t comment on the particulars, but do remember that this took place before Vatican II, so much of the ritual may be unfamiliar to modern-day Catholics.

The “pale dirt” was probably salt. It was part of the Catholic Baptismal ceremony, along with water & oil, before Vatican II.

But I’ll bet some conservative and/or ethnic Catholic communities still use it. This Travel Baptismal allows you to substitute a salt container for one of the three (3) oils used in different sacraments.

Salt is still used, actually, but it’s pre-mixed into one of the oils.

EDIT: I should mention that water is the only thing that’s actually essential for baptism. The rest is just traditional frills, and so may well vary from place to place or time to time.



Thanks guys. A special thanks to Cleveland Steamer for posting me to Wikipedia. That’s one interesting article.