Ursinus Heidelberg commentary mentions cattle baptism

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Puritan Board Freshman
In Ursinus' commentary on the Heidelberg catechism in regards to Question 71 he mentions an abuse of baptism in a way involving cattle. I can't seem to find any reference to cattle and baptism, is someone willing to share some insight?



Puritan Board Junior
I had to look that up because I thought you were joking, but sure enough there it was in the commentary. So I did a little search on the internet and found this from the Catholic Encyclopedia (CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Holy Water) . . .

Hincmar of Reims gave directions as follows: "Every Sunday, before the celebration of Mass, the priest shall bless water in his church, and, for this holy purpose, he shall use a clean and suitable vessel. The people, when entering the church, are to be sprinkled with this water, and those who so desire may carry some away in clean vessels so as to sprinkle their houses, fields, vineyards, and cattle, and the provender with which these last are fed, as also to throw over their own food" ("Capitula synodalia", cap. v, in P.L., CXXV, col, 774).


Puritan Board Doctor
Baptism is properly used when it is observed with the design for which it was instituted, and not for the healing of cattle, and abuses of a similar nature. The reference is near the bottom of page 363.


Puritan Board Junior
As Brian noted, holy water was often thought to possess magical properties. Many medieval stories mention infants cured of blindness or some such thing upon baptism. Sometimes it was thought that exorcising (including sprinkling with water and/or salt) a woman while she was giving birth would help prevent miscarriages. That belief actually goes back to the patristic era. So, these cattle baptisms weren't ritual actions per se. It was just peasants taking some holy water back with them to sprinkle on their possessions. What's interesting is that this practice survived even in Protestant and even some Puritan areas into the 17th century.
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