Monday, April 2, 2012

The Sacramental Seal of Baptism:The Baptismal Watermark

[editor: here is an article from a few years back explaining the sacramental seal. Some Church Fathers called it "the seal of salvation". Understanding the seal (or sacramental "mark") is important to understand the doctrinal position of EENSers, Church Fathers or doctors of the Church considered  no one a member of the Church without it. This is the real crux of the debate: The seal can only be gotten by the Sacrament. Even Ott who defended BOD said the BOD couldn't make one a member of the Church because there is NO SEAL given by BOD or BOB. This is where we think the Church needs to focus on explaining the Seal of Baptism and how it works.

Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Membership in the Church, p. 309:

“3. Among the members of the Church are not to be counted: a) The unbaptized… The so-called blood Baptism and the Baptism of desire, it is true, replace Baptism by water (sic) in so far as the communication of grace is concerned, BUT DO NOT EFFECT INCORPORATION INTO THE CHURCH… Catechumens are not to be counted among the members of the Church… The Church claims no jurisdiction over them (D 895).  The Fathers draw a sharp line of separation between Catechumens and ‘the faithful.’”
[Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 309]

Why do we say that God requires more than just a desire? Why does He insist on Baptism with water? Why is such a common, superabundant substance like water so important in His designs?
We have seen that the principal difference between the Sacrament of Baptism (water) on the one hand, and the two theories (desire or blood) on the other, is the fact that only by the sacrament is the character impressed on the soul. The character, then, must carry with it a special importance and degree of necessity. It is too wonderful a spiritual reality to be arbitrary. Were it not necessary, Christ certainly would have qualified His statement to Nicodemus by naming the only allowable exceptions to Baptism by water. But He named no exceptions, so it behooves us to take a deeper look at this "watermark" on the soul called character.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Character (Greek, engraving instrument), the mark or trait by which the personality of one person is distinguished from that of another. The word is used to express the spiritual and indelible sign imprinted on the soul by the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders.
The Sacramental Character marks the soul . . . as distinct from those who have it not; as obliged to perform certain duties; as conformed to the image of God; as disposed for God’s grace.
Baptism marks the soul as a subject of Christ and His Church; Confirmation, as a warrior of the Church Militant; Holy Orders, as a minister of its Divine worship.

In Volume I of The Sacraments by Pohle-Preuss, first published in 1915, the author, Monsignor Joseph Pohle, elaborates on these four functions of the sacramental character — to distinguish, to oblige, to conform, to dispose. We will take from his text those comments which pertain only to the baptismal character.
Since God does nothing without a purpose, we must first ask: Why did He institute the baptismal character? Monsignor Pohle answers:

The Baptismal Character implies on the part of the recipient a sort of "consecration" — in the sense of objective sanctification, not subjective holiness. Saint Augustine, compelled to emphasize not only the distinction between, but the actual separability of, grace and character (sanctification and consecration) insisted that heretics may receive and sinners retain the Baptismal Character without grace. Saint Thomas went a long step further by defining consecration as a bestowal of the spiritual power necessary to perform acts of divine worship. In Baptism, the passive receptivity which the Sacrament confers is really an active power: the power to receive the other Sacraments, to participate in all the rights and duties of a child of the true Church, and to be a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. These functions constitute necessary parts of Christian worship.
The very name "Character," and its description as a stamp or seal, indicate that it may be a threefold sign: a) a mark to distinguish various objects; b) a mark to denote a duty; c) a mark to indicate similarity. The impress of a seal or stamp produces a triple effect: it renders an object recognizable; it marks the object as part of one’s property; and it produces in it a likeness of the owner. The Baptismal Character exercises all these functions, and in addition to them a fourth, namely, d) to dispose the soul for the reception of grace.

Monsignor Pohle then elaborates on each of these four functions. He says that the baptismal character . . .

a) . . . distinguishes those who are baptized from those who have not been baptized. No one can belong to the Church unless he wear the Character of Baptism. Without this Character, no one has the power to receive the other Sacraments, to participate in all the rights and duties of a child of the true Church, or to be a member of the Mystical Body of Christ.
b) . . . marks a man as the inalienable property of Jesus Christ, unites him indissolubly with the God-man, whose sign and livery he wears, and lays upon him the obligation of performing those acts of divine worship which Baptism, by virtue of this Character, imposes as an official duty. By Baptism, the recipient is officially marked and charged with the duties of a subject of Christ and His Church.
c) . . . conforms the soul to the image of God. Not in the sense in which man is a natural likeness of the Creator; nor in the sense in which he is a supernatural image of God by virtue of sanctifying grace. The supernatural image conferred by the Baptismal Character establishes a proper likeness to Christ, not as if the soul participated in His Divine Sonship, but in the sense of sharing in His office of High Priest. By receiving the Baptismal Character, a man is designated, empowered, and placed under obligation to perform certain acts of worship which bear a special relation to Our Divine Savior’s sacerdotal office. Consequently, the Baptismal Character, considered as a mark of similarity or conformity, is not so much the Character of the Holy Trinity, as that of Christ the High Priest.
. . . disposes the soul for the reception of, and thereby bestows a claim to, grace, both sanctifying and actual. The Baptismal Character, as this sign of disposition for sanctifying grace, must not be conceived as a "preliminary stage" of that grace,* because it is not a form of sanctification. The connection between the Character and grace is purely moral, and may be described as a kind of affinity, inasmuch as the Baptismal Character, in view of its purpose, ought never to exist without sanctifying grace. Furthermore, the Baptismal Character confers a moral claim to all actual graces necessary for the worthy fulfilment of the office or dignity conferred by the Sacrament of Baptism. Still another effect is that the guardian angels watch with special solicitude over the bearer of this "spiritual seal," while the demons are constrained to moderate their attacks upon him.
* In a footnote, Monsignor Pohle says that Alexander of Hales, Saint Bonaventure, and the Franciscan school of theologians in general held that the baptismal character is a "preliminary stage" of sanctifying grace, and, therefore, a sanctifying grace itself, though much diminished. We bring this up here only to point out that the Church has never defined exactly what the baptismal character is or does. Hence, theologians are free to postulate their own opinions.

So speak the technical books of theologians on the subject of the sacramental character. Of necessity, the language is philosophical, technical, and, consequently, very dry. And our question concerning Christ’s insistence on Baptism with water is not clearly answered. For a deeper, more edifying appreciation of the spiritual purpose and beauty of the baptismal seal, we must turn to the writings of those holy souls in the Church whose thoughts and words on matters theological spring from their hearts as well as their minds.
There is much of this type of inspiring testimony in a yet unpublished treatise on the Baptism of Our Lady being researched and written by the compiler of The Apostolic Digest. His style is delightful yet penetrating.
With his kind permission, we will quote portions of the manuscript in order to demonstrate why "baptism" by desire or blood cannot possibly replace the need for the sacrament of Baptism by water for salvation.
The Church, The Ultimate Authority
Before quoting from the treatise, we should consider why the Church has tolerated the theories known as "baptism of desire" and "baptism of blood," since at least the fourth century, without ever giving them official approval. Why has God permitted these opinions to remain unclarified by the Church for so many centuries?<
If we can believe the eight Popes who approved and authorized the writings of Venerable Mary of Agreda (1602-1665), it was Our Lord Himself who told her:

Very often I permit and cause differences of opinion among the doctors and teachers. Thus, some of them maintain what is true, and others, according to their natural disposition, defend what is doubtful. Others still again are permitted to say even what is not true, though not in open contradiction to the veiled truths of faith which all must hold. Some also teach what is possible according to their supposition. By this varied light, truth is traced, and the mysteries of faith become more manifest. Doubt serves as a stimulus to the understanding for the investigation of truth. Therefore, controversies of teachers fulfill a proper and holy end. They are also permitted in order to make known that real knowledge dwells in My Church more than in the combined study of all the holy and perfect teachers. (Mystical City of God: The Conception)

Note that Our Lord speaks of the "veiled truths which all must hold." Surely, Baptism is such. Can we say we hold it if we contest its absolute necessity for all men? And can we claim we hold it if we say that being a "veiled" truth means that it does not really apply to all men? On the contrary, the "veil" pertains to its actual application to all men; that is, the often miraculous means by which God gets Baptism to all His elect.
The present controversy over "desire" is, we believe, the final phase of that steadily mounting attack on the Faith of Catholic peoples discussed in the previous chapter. From the first through the fifteenth centuries, Catholics knew with certainty that "outside the Church, there is no salvation," and that only by the sacrament of Baptism could one be truly "inside" the Church. These closely related dogmas were not only believed and understood by the faithful since the very beginning of the Church, but they were solemnly defined by popes and councils several times, when the need to reaffirm them more explicitly had become necessary. The absolute necessity of the sacrament of Baptism for salvation was clearly defined by the Councils of Vienne in 1312, and Florence in 1445, and was declared again by the Council of Trent in 1563. (Vienne: See Denzinger #482; Florence: Denzinger #696; Trent is discussed thoroughly on pages 114 to 118 ahead.)
Despite these solemn pronouncements of the Church, the theory of "baptism of desire" refuses to die. This is simply because avowed enemies of the Church will not let it die! It is the only theological argument capable of nullifying the dogma Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, which is, as it were, the very jugular of the Church. And they are going for the jugular!
Ever since the Protestant Revolt in the sixteenth century, the popularity of "baptism of desire" has been on the increase. For five hundred years, the evil influences of rationalism, liberalism, and now modernism have been gnawing away at the Faith of Catholics, so much so that, today, the average Catholic sees little, if any, difference between his own Catholic Faith and whatever his "good" non-Catholic neighbor believes. And if, perchance, he does understand how great the difference really is, he compensates for it by bestowing "baptism of desire" on the lucky fellow.
Such is the sad condition of the Faith in the world today, and the reader knows this is true, but he may not be able to identify the cause clearly. So we say again, the cause is the denial by churchmen of the fundamental defined dogma, "Outside the Church there is no salvation," and its corollary, "The sacrament of Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation."
For anyone to deny either of these dogmas of the Church, knowingly and deliberately, is a formal heresy. Yet, the unqualified acceptance of "baptism of desire" as a "teaching of the Church" has been so widespread during the past one hundred years or more, and the meaning of the term has become so inclusive, that the only corrective measure possible now would appear to be another infallible definition by the Holy Father reaffirming Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus and proclaiming the precise meaning of baptismus in voto.
It seems, then, that God has permitted the theory of "desire" to remain unclarified for such a long time so that "truth is traced and the mysteries of faith become more manifest." And He has tolerated this denial of defined dogmas for such a long time so that men would be brought to their knees by having to suffer the consequences of their denial.
Whether or not the testimony of Mary of Agreda given above is reliable is beside the point. What is important here is the truth that "real knowledge dwells in My Church more than in the combined study of all the holy and perfect teachers."
In the end, this "unholy confusion" will be resolved by the Church, and only the Church. Only then will all debate cease.
Now, we begin our presentation of selected segments of the unpublished treatise entitled The Christening of Mary. This presentation will continue throughout the remaining pages of this second part of our treatise. Occasionally, when we wish to make a particular point, we will do so in footnotes. (In these excerpts, the reader may note certain stylistic conventions that differ from the rest of the book; i.e., some words that Mr. Malone capitalizes we do not. Lest we alter the integrity of his writing, we keep Mr. Malone’s styles as in his original.)
Excerpts from The Christening of Mary by Michael Malone
Our Blessed Mother is indeed placed by God on a unique pedestal for our love and admiration, our praise and emulation. But that she cannot be placed by God any higher does not mean, in fact, that she cannot increase in grace. . . . Mariology teaches quite clearly that Our Lady, even though conceived "full of grace," continued to advance in grace added upon grace every moment of her life. . . . God could, and did in fact, increase the incomprehensible fullness of grace in His Mother to ever and ever greater heights of fullness in time and in eternity.
One of these special graces, raising her even to new heights of holiness, was the administration of Sacramental Baptism by her own Divine Son, Jesus. Saint Ephrem, the Syrian Doctor of the Church, declares that the Son regenerated His Mother through the waters of Baptism even though, as he goes on to declare, Our Lady was already "loftier than Heaven itself." Indeed, she awaited with great longing this sacramental enhancement all her life and, from the moment she gave birth to the Christ Child, she continued to look down on Him and prophesy, according to Saint Ephrem: "You, my Son, shall regenerate me with Your Baptism" (Mueller, Ecclesia-Maria, p.150 and note 57).
The abbot Euthymius flourished in Palestine in the 4th century and, according to him: "Our Lord personally baptized the Blessed Virgin and Saint Peter, who himself afterwards baptized the other Apostles.". . .

No sacramental gift can be received by a person who has not been sacramentally baptized. No [other] sacrament is valid which is ministered to an unbaptized person. The great Apostle [Paul] had been baptized by the Holy Ghost before he was baptized by Ananias, but he had to receive Sacramental Baptism at the hands of his fellow-man. He who came to Baptism already justified had to be incorporated thereby as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ — the visible Church — the people and kingdom of God, in which he was to teach and govern.
Mary was baptized by the Holy Ghost, in the first instant of her human being, with the most perfect of all baptisms of the Spirit. The streams of grace that made her glad who was to be the City of our God. . . flowed with an unbroken current throughout her life, and made her life on earth one life-long baptism of the Spirit.
Mary was a martyr also, and more than a martyr, for she is Queen of Martyrs. She was baptized with Christ’s baptism of blood, although, like John her fellow-martyr, she did not shed her blood in death. She drank from the chalice of Christ’s sufferings more deeply than did all the martyrs, and less deeply only than did her Son, the Man of Sorrows, Who drank it to its dregs.
It is certain, nevertheless, that Mary, already Queen of Saints and Martyrs, was baptized again with the Baptism of Water and the Holy Ghost, which alone is sacramental. (Father William Humphrey, S.J., The One Mediator, 1894, Page 103)

Theologians in common, then, have long held Our Lady to have been sacramentally baptized.*
* Although Father Feeney did not hesitate to embrace the tradition that Our Lady was, and indeed needed to be, baptized, he refrained from placing Mary’s obligation toward her Son’s Baptism in the same universally binding category in which all other men stand in relation to this sacrament. Having been uniquely redeemed, she could also have been uniquely saved. However, as Michael Malone points out, she freely chose to be obedient to the decrees of her Son. And Therefore, in a sense beyond our tainted understanding, she chose to "work out" her own salvation, not by "fear and trembling," but by an obedience inflamed by sheer love.

The Seal of His Image
"Baptism" is originally a Greek word and its fundamental function is to indicate a complete plunge.

Baptism comes from the Greek, and signifies to plunge, immerse, submerge in water, or to wash, clean, purify, or wet with water. (Father James Meagher, The Seven Gates of Heaven, 1885, Page 53)

Note the primary emphasis on "plunging into" and the secondary connotation of "cleansing." Now, no one argues that Our Blessed Lady ever needed Sacramental Baptism to be cleansed; therefore, her only possible need for Baptism would consist in something else.
Is this "something else" perhaps the grace of the Holy Ghost? Of course not! The Holy Ghost has been Our Lady’s Spouse ever since her conception "full of grace." Also, at the Incarnation, she was "overshadowed" by the same Holy Spirit. Therefore, Our Precious Mother had no need of Baptism to achieve justification, but only to get the seal of salvation given by the mark or character of the sacrament.

How? God has anointed you, the Lord has marked you with the Seal and placed the Holy Spirit in your heart. Receive also something else. For, as the Spirit is in your heart, so Christ is in your heart. How? You have this in the Canticle of Canticles: "Place Me as a seal upon your heart." You have, then, been marked with the imprint of His Cross, with the imprint of His Passion. You have received the Seal of His image, so that you may rise again in His image, so that you may live according to His image! (Saint Ambrose On The Sacraments, VI: 6-7)

Thus, plunging into Jesus Christ, all the members of His entire Body are branded and baptized as one.
The image of Baptism as being a plunging leap into Jesus has a very graphic appeal. Various passages in Holy Scripture contribute to this exemplification. The Prophet Ezechiel, for instance, was all but submerged in the miraculous waters which issued forth from the Temple as a symbol of Christ’s Baptism to come: "And all things shall live to which the torrent shall come!" declared the Lord (Ezech 47:9).
But especially colorful is the story told in Saint John about the man "who had been 38 years" an invalid. When Our Savior asked him if he wanted to get well, he replied: "I have no man. . . to put me into the pond" when the angel came to stir up its waters (John 5:7). It is easy to visualize an old gentleman with withered limbs being carried to the edge of Bethsaida and lowered gently into the pool by alert young assistants.
Ah, but this is where the Douay-Rheims translation misleads us. The verb "to put" is better translated in the New American Bible* as: "I have no one to plunge me into the pool." The Greek word used by Saint John was bal’lo: "to throw violently, to fling deliberately or hurl."

* In no way do we advocate the New American Bible over the Douay-Rheims. Generally speaking, it reeks of modernist influence. In this particular text, however, the translation is more literal than that of the Douay.

All right! So now we have some young whippersnappers literally grabbing the old guy and pitching him headlong into the water! This is precisely what happens when we are "baptized in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:3): we are completely immersed, head and foot, into His Body and Being.

Similarly, in the conferring of supernatural divine light and the reflection of the Divine Nature upon our soul, in the impress of the supernatural likeness of God, the eternal splendor of the Father is irradiated over us, and His consubstantial image, the Son of God, is imprinted in our soul and is reborn in us by an imitation and extension of the eternal production. Thus God’s Son Himself, in His Divine and Hypostatic Character, is lodged in the creature as the Seal of the creature’s likeness to God. By the impress of this Seal, the creature is made conformable to the Son Himself, and, by fellowship with the Son, he receives the dignity and glory of the children of God.
This selection is found on page 156 of a seminary textbook, The Mysteries of Christianity, written over a century ago by the "Saint Thomas of Germany," Father Matthias Joseph Scheeben, Rector of the episcopal seminary and college in Cologne, where he taught until his death in 1888. An extremely prominent theologian of prodigious output, Father Scheeben was also a mystic of great renown, whose supernatural visions all but surpassed his prolific writings.

Notice: Father Scheeben states that the consubstantial image of the Son of God is imprinted in our soul, reborn in us by an extension of the eternal production itself; thus, Jesus Himself, in His Hypostatic Character, is lodged in the creature as a seal. Surely, this branding means something very essential to our regeneration!
Jesus says of His New Testament faithful: "I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Saint John, writing his Gospel in Greek, did not use the word "abundantly" at all. He used the Greek word perissos which means "a violently excessive superabundance beyond any superior measure."
On page 590 of his book, Father Scheeben goes on to say:

In a physical body, the members are brought to conformity and unity of life with the head by the conformity of their structure and the resulting connection with the head. Similarly, in the Mystical Body of Christ, we are raised to conformity with His Divine Nature by the configuration and union with the Divine-Human Head contained in the Character; and, if we have grace, to participation in His Life.

Thus, we begin to visualize what the German theologian later explains as the real distinction and superiority of sanctifying grace in the New Law as contrasted to that under the Old.
Note the clear dichotomy Father has already made between our "conformity with His Divine Nature" via the character of the sacrament of Baptism on the one hand, and "participation in His Life, if we have grace" on the other.
Therefore, it seems that the two requirements for ultimate salvation must lie in the contingency of being both character-ized as Jesus and graced with His Life. The mark and the grace, then, must constitute the two most fundamental requirements for salvation which can never be minimized, modified, displaced, or replaced: the two immutable things which must be possessed by all souls when they go to their Particular Judgment.
The Signature of God
Every act, every performance, every operation — by God or man or angel — is, to some degree, a self-portrait. And God has autographed His work. Saint Raymond of Pennafort, taking meditative walks, would strike at the wayside blooms and flowers, shouting: "Hush! Be silent!" for he could not carry on his contemplation because of their loud roaring of the praises of God Who made them.
In much the same way, we bear the stamp of Him Who made us, for we are created in His "image and likeness." And it is also true that we share a likeness to God in the life of Grace:

Baptism plunges us into the Holy Trinity — to baptize means to plunge — Baptism introduces us into the life of the three Divine Persons. (Father Charles Massabki, O.S.B., Who is the Holy Spirit?, 1979, Page 117)

What more could man desire, since, as Saint Basil the Great declares: "To become like unto God is the highest of all goals: to become God!"
But no, it does not suffice! God Himself does not stop here, for man nor Mother, in the courtyard we might call "Grace." No! He takes us by the hand and, with the human hand of a Brother in the flesh, leads us all the way "through the veil of His flesh" into the Holy of Holies itself.

Before time began, the Father foreknew and predestined all the Elect to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that His Son should be the first-born among many brethren.(Lumen Gentium I 2:5)

Vatican Council II is here merely reiterating the words of Saint Paul to his first converts in Rome (Rom. 8:29), because our mere resemblance to the Blessed Trinity in Grace — even the "fullness" thereof — will no longer do, nor will it any longer save.

It will not suffice to bear upon us the image of the Deity, but we must also carry the image of Christ made man, and we must likewise be conformable to His image. (Father John Kenney, The Knowledge of Jesus Christ, 1889, Page 79)

Remember: the voice of God is heard only over the baptized, calling them alone His "beloved sons." As Archbishop Luis Martinez, Primate of Mexico, explained on page 125 of his marvelous book, Only Jesus:

It is upon Jesus alone that the contemplative gaze of the Heavenly Father rests with full complacency. Just as we desire to see the image of one we love everywhere, so the Father desires to see Jesus reproduced in souls. What a prodigality of graces it requires to accomplish this loving design! How many wonders must be wrought to transform souls into Jesus!

But let us go back to the very beginning, even beyond the days of Paradise in Eden, when Adam was still asleep in the slime of the riverbank and God’s breath had not as yet filled his nostrils with life. We know that he was to be made in the image and likeness of God, but it is "Christ Who is the image of God" (II Cor. 4:4). Therefore, Adam had to be constructed in the specific likeness of Jesus Christ; for "Adam. . . is a figure of Him Who was to come" (Rom. 5:14). So, the slime must have been molded by God in such a way as "to be made conformable to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29), with the same two eyes, two hands, two feet, and so forth, which would be possessed by "the Last Adam" (I Cor. 15:45). As God worked the clay of the riverbank into that First Adam, He must have envisioned the ultimate embodiment of His Divine Son, Jesus Christ. In his The Faith of the Early Fathers (1970, I:361), Father William A. Jurgens quotes Tertullian:

Indeed a great affair was in progress when that clay was being fashioned. . . Think of God being wholly employed and devoted to it, whose lines He was determining by His hand . . . In whatever way the clay was pressed out, He was thinking of Christ, the Man Who was one day to be; because the Word, too, was to be both clay and flesh as the world was then. Thus it was that the Father said beforehand to the Son: "Let Us make man in Our image and likeness. And God made man"— that is, the creature which He fashioned — "to the image of God" — of Christ, of course — "He made him" (Genesis 1:27). (On The Resurrection)

Just as Jesus is the Word of God: His Idea, His Image, "His Eternal Concept" as Saint Thomas says, so likewise are we meant for all eternity to be the image, idea and concept not of God as Trinity, but — exclusively and almost incarnationally — of God as the Second Person thereof. For, as Saint Paul puts it: "we have the mind of Christ," and are "made partakers of Christ," because "we are members of His Body, of His flesh, and of His bones."
This is the visual signature which must now appear in us if we are to be counted among the children of the Most High. We must, then, be marked with the Character of Christ in Holy Baptism.

The nature and significance of the Character seem to us to come to this: that it is the signature which makes known that the members of the God-Man’s Mystical Body belong to their divine-human Head by assimilating them to Him, and testifies to their organic union with Him.
The Character of the members must be a reflection and replica of the theandric Character of this Head. For, to become other Christs, the members must share in the Character by which the Head becomes Christ.
But the signature whereby Christ’s humanity receives its divine dignity and consecration is nothing else than its Hypostatic Union with the Logos.
Consequently, the Character of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body must consist in a Seal which establishes and exhibits their relationship to the Logos: their Character must be analogous to the Hypostatic Union and grounded upon it. . . .
Thus, from every point of view the idea. . . is substantiated that the Character by which Christians are anointed and become Christians is analogous to the Hypostatic Union of the humanity with the Logos, which is what makes Christ what He is. (Fr. Matthias Joseph Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, Pages 582-587)

In the realm of reality, then, there simply can be no other way for a man to be made "like unto God" in the perfect sense. In his Oration on the Word Made Flesh (page 46), Saint Gregory of Nyssa says:

How, then, are we to be made like to God? For, what is being a Christian but being made like to God, even as far as nature can receive the likeness? But how can you put on Christ unless you receive the Mark of Christ, unless you receive His Baptism?

In his Glories of Divine Grace, published in 1885, page 79, Father Scheeben explains:

By Holy Baptism, we are incorporated in the Mystical Body of Christ, and in token and pledge of this union with Christ, we receive the Sacramental Character. By this Character we are Christ’s and He is ours; by it we are really Christians; we are, as it were, Christ Himself, in as far as we, the Body and the Head, form One Whole.*

* The reader must note well that Father Scheeben speaks here of the Mystical Body of Christ which is, of course, distinct from His Physical Body.

And in his Catechetical Lectures III, page 33, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem assures us:

If a person does not receive the Seal by Baptism, he will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This seems very bold language, but I only say that it is the Lord’s, not mine!
Consider the story of Cornelius in the Acts of the Apostles. Cornelius was a good man, and he was on familiar terms with the angels. His prayers and acts of kindness did not go unnoticed by God, and God sent Peter along to explain the Gospel to him. As Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his friends, just as He had fallen on the Apostles at Pentecost: they began praising God in tongues, and prophesying. Yet notice: even though they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter gave orders that they were to be baptized with water, so that they would be incorporated into the Body of Christ, which is His Church.

Either the Baptism brought and wrought by Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary for all human beings without exception, or it is not. But He said it was necessary; He sanctioned no alternatives and allowed no exceptions. The commandments of Jesus for His Church are indispensable requirements for all men, even for Our Precious Lady. Thus, it was not without a sense of divine urgency that the Council of Trent canonized its infallible definition:

If anyone shall say that Baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation: let him be anathema.

The Sacramental System
The Sacraments were not instituted by Christ simply to make available to us His divine life by participation therein. We must distinguish and differentiate their specific reasons for being, and for having been brought into being by an All-Wise Trinity. Some, indeed, are directed towards the life of Christians; others, towards the very structure thereof.

The Sacraments of Holy Eucharist, Penance, Last Anointing, and Matrimony are Sacraments of organic life and growth . . . Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, on the other hand, are Sacraments of organic structure. They build up, strengthen, and preserve the supernatural organic structure of the Mystical Body. They fix the relation of members to their Mystic Head and, furthermore, adapt certain members to the performance of specific functions in the Body. These three Sacraments alone have this extraordinary effect, because they are the Sacraments which impress upon the soul of the recipient an indelible mark, seal, or character. (Father John Gruden, The Mystical Christ, Page 236)
According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Sacramental System exists for a twofold purpose: "For a remedy against sins, and for the perfecting of the soul in things pertaining to Divine Worship according to the rite of Christian life." Our Blessed Mother had no need of the remedy against sins, but was to be perfected according to the latter purpose by way of Baptism, for Saint Thomas immediately adds:

Now, whenever anyone is deputed to some definite purpose, he is accustomed to receive some outward sign thereof; thus, in olden times, soldiers who enlisted in the ranks used to be marked with certain characters on the body . . . Since, therefore, men are deputed to a spiritual service pertaining to the worship of God by the Sacraments, it follows that by means of the Sacraments the faithful receive a certain spiritual Character. Wherefore, Saint Augustine says: " . . . Are the Christian Sacraments, by any chance, of a nature less lasting than this bodily mark placed on soldiers?" (Summa Theologica, III, Q 63, Art.1)

Our Blessed Lady was, of course, uniquely redeemed and immaculately conceived. She had an unparalleled claim, then, on her eternal reward of glory. But, as Saint Thomas explains, all "the faithful of Christ are destined to the reward of glory that is to come . . . but they are deputed to acts fitting the Church that is now, by a certain spiritual seal set on them, and called a Character."
Mary Immaculate, then, by living into the New Testament, and thus into "the Church that is now," was likewise deputed via the impress of a Sacramental Mark or Seal called a Character.
The Mark of Distinction
If, in fact, Our Dearest Lady did not need Baptism, then, for her, the Sacrament would not have been of any use. But, as Saint Thomas points out, "There is nothing useless in the works of God." Therefore, there must be a utility in Baptism even for the most innocent of perfect beings. And that is the indelible mark, or Character, of the Sacrament by which Mary of Nazareth was constituted the towering ivory neck of the entire Mystical Body. Since Our Mother was meant from all Eternity to become this channel, or Mediatrix, between Christ and His Body, she had to be marked out, deputed, and empowered as such. The "brand" of her Son’s Sacrament, then, was that "usefulness," over and above Grace, which she needed for her eternal vocation in Christ.
Our Lady must have borne the Character of her Divine Son, or she would have been "distinguished" — set apart — from all her children in Heaven. How could she who is full of grace lack that which is carried as a Divine Seal by all her children? Unbaptized, how could Our Lady be the Queen of those who would "out-rank" her, those who share a special grace which even her fullness thereof never brought to her?
No. Our Heavenly Queen must have possessed the identifying Mark of her Son, and have possessed it pre-eminently. For, it is the Sacrament of water Baptism alone that marks us as members of Jesus Christ, and thus as members of His Mystical Body, the Roman Catholic Church, outside which there is no salvation whatsoever possible.

Just as the Sacrament of Baptism distinguishes all who are Christians and marks them out from all others who have not been washed in its cleansing waters and are not members of Christ, so the Sacrament of Order. . . . (Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, Catholic Truth Society, Paragraph 46)

Your Heavenly I.D. Card
According to The Catechism of the Council of Trent, the effects of the Sacrament of Baptism include: remission of sin and punishment due; the grace of regeneration and infused virtue; incorporation into Christ; the indelible Character of a Christian stamped on the soul; and the opening of the gates of Heaven. The only effects lacking to Our Lady were the Christian stamp and perfect incorporation into her Divine Son which this stamp achieves.

Baptism, therefore, does what nothing except Baptism can do, so far as character is concerned. The most perfect charity cannot imprint character. The largest measure of sanctifying grace cannot imprint it. The crown of charity in martyrdom cannot imprint it. The charity of Mary, the Queen of Martyrs, made her "full of grace" which sanctified her soul as never a soul was sanctified, save that Soul in which grace was not by measure, since in Him, whose Soul it was, dwelled all the fulness of Godhead corporeally. On His Soul no character was imprinted, since it is to that Soul that character configurates the souls of the sacramentally baptized. That which Mary’s sanctity could not do for her, Mary’s Baptism did. (Father William Humphrey, S.J. The One Mediator, 1894, Pages 257-258)

Our Blessed Lady of Nazareth was conceived full of grace, but she was not yet perfected with all the perfections God had planned for her. "Hail, full of Grace . . . full of Justification!" the Archangel Gabriel had declared to her; "Thus it becomes Us to fulfill all justice," declared Our Lord to an astonished Baptist. His Baptism, then, is the perfection of the grace of justification precisely because it — and it alone — produces that "Perfect Man" (Eph 4:13) who alone can "ascend back up where He was before" (Jn 6:63).
We can be assured, then, that Baptism, like Our Lord Himself, is the "door of the sheep: by Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:7,9).

Baptism is the Sacrament of the successive production of the Church, the Sacrament by which the Church provides for its own existence and extension, the act by which the Church acquires members and creates Christians . . . To unite one to the Church, to make one a member of the Church, to place one in a state of belonging to the Church, is, we should say, the primary, necessary, and essential effect of Baptism. (Father Emile Mersch, S.J. The Theology of the Mystical Body, 1951, Pp. 560-561)

This ends our presentation of selected sections of the unpublished treatise of Michael Malone. We think he has made a very strong case for the position we have in common with him: that the sacrament of Baptism, with the baptismal character which only it can imprint on the soul, is absolutely necessary for everyone without exception, as a necessity of means, for ultimate salvation.
The comments about the character of Baptism, made by the fathers, saints and theologians quoted above, prove a vital point: Father Laisney of the Society of Saint Pius X is entirely out of order when he accuses us of inventing a "new theology" regarding the character (see page 193 ahead). As the reader will see, he looks upon the character as something of little importance. We say that its importance is as "essential" as the sanctifying grace of Baptism, in the same manner that conformity to Christ is as important as participation in His Divine Life.
Just as Christ’s human nature cannot be separated from His Divine Person, His character or image in us (wrought by His Humanity) ought not to be separated from His grace (wrought by His Divinity).
If, by a special anticipational grace, God justifies a soul prior to Baptism, it is in view of the union to come in the sacrament. The sanctification of that exceptional soul is a preparation, so to speak, a paving-of-the-way, as the Baptism of John prepared one, by grace, for the Baptism of Jesus, which incorporates the full man, body and soul, into His Mystical Body.
Let us close this chapter on the baptismal watermark with the words of two holy men whose eras bridge most of the history of the Church: the great eastern Doctor of the fourth century, Saint Ephrem and the twentieth century apostle of the Kingship of Christ, Father Denis Fahey, C.S.Sp.
The year 1954 saw the death of Father Fahey, the renowned Irish priest who, throughout his adult life, had been an implacable foe of all enemies of Christ. In his work, Christ Our King, he wrote:

By the character of Baptism, we are one with Our Lord in the unity of His Mystical Body, and the very character by which we are incorporated into that sublime unity is a certain participation in His Priesthood. So when Our Lord renews the act of submission of Calvary on the Altar, He renews it as He now is, that is, as Head of the Mystical Body in which all the baptized are one with Him. On the Cross, Christ was alone. His members were engrafted in Him only potentially. At the Altar, He is no longer alone: it is the "whole Christ," to use St. Augustine’s phrase, that is, Christ and His members, who now offer sacrifice to the Blessed Trinity, the members being co-offerers with the Invisible Principal Offerer and His visible ministerial offerer, the priest. And we can be co-offerers, because the character of Baptism is a participation on our level in the Priesthood of Our Lord, enabling us to look upon Christ’s act of submission on the Altar as ours and to unite our act of submission with His.

And again:

It was the acceptance of the fact that the bodies of the baptized are members of Christ that brought forth those lovely flowers of chastity amidst the thorns of paganism, in the decadent Roman Empire.

Saint Ephrem the Deacon beautifully brings this theology to its eschatological summit as only the Syrian poet-Doctor can. In an inspiring booklet entitled The Dereliction of the Cross, a long-time friend of Saint Benedict Center, Mr. Francis Conklin, writes:

Saint Ephrem, one of the glories of the Church in the fourth century, eloquently described what awaits each soul at the Judgment:
"The Lord shall then command the Book of the living and the dead to be opened: and then, oh! the tears that shall be shed. Then shall the Judge look upon all the Christians who are there, and search for the character of the Faith received in Baptism, when they renounced the flesh, the devil, and the world. Happy then shall those be who have preserved it inviolate to the end of their lives."

Along with all of these orthodox sources just quoted, we hold that the seal of Baptism is your Heavenly I.D. Card; you don’t dare leave this earthly home without it!