Baptism


The First Sacrament of Initiation

 

The public life of Jesus began with His Baptism on the shore of the Jordan River. It ended with Jesus commanding the Apostles to "go and make disciples of all, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He had commanded them." (Mt. 28:19-20)

 

The Sacrament of Baptism is often called "The door of the Church," because it is the first of the seven sacraments. The reception of the other sacraments depends on it. It is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation, the other two being the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Once baptized, a person becomes a member of the Church.

 

Christ Himself ordered His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations and to baptize those who accept the message of the Gospel. In His encounter with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), Christ made it clear that baptism was necessary for salvation: "Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." For Catholics, the sacrament is not a mere formality; it is the very mark of a Christian, because it brings us into new life in Christ.

 

Baptism does five things. (1.) It forgives all sins that may have been committed prior to a person's baptism including original sin and it relieves the punishment for those sins. (2.) It makes the newly baptized person "a new creature." (3.) It turns the person into a newly adopted son/daughter of God and a member of Christ. (4.) Baptism incorporates one into the Church which is the body of Christ. (5.) It brings someone into the flock of the faithful and brings them to share in the royal priesthood of Christ (1Pet. 2:9-10).

 

The Baptism of Desire:

That doesn't mean that only those who have been formally baptized can be saved. From very early on, the Church recognized that there are two other types of baptism besides the baptism of water.

 

The baptism of desire applies both to those who, while wishing to be baptized, die before receiving the sacrament and "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of conscience" (Constitution on the Church, Second Vatican Council).

The Baptism of Blood:

 

The baptism of blood is similar to the baptism of desire. It refers to the martyrdom of those believers who were killed for the faith before they had a chance to be baptized. This was a common occurrence in the early centuries of the Church, but also in later times in missionary lands. The baptism of blood has the same effects as the baptism of water.

 

The Form of the Sacrament:

While the Church has an extended rite of Baptism which is normally celebrated, which includes roles for both parents and godparents, the essentials of that rite are two: the pouring of water over the head of the person to be baptized (or the immersion of the person in water); and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

The Minister of the Sacrament:

 

Since the form of baptism requires just the water and the words, the sacrament, like the Sacrament of Marriage, does not require a priest; any baptized person can baptize another. In fact, when the life of a person is in danger, even a non-baptized person—including someone who does not himself believe in Christ—can baptize, provided that the person performing the baptism follows the form of baptism and intends, by the baptism, to do what the Church does—in other words, to bring the person being baptized into the fullness of the Church.

 

In both cases, a priest may later perform a conditional baptism.


Infant Baptism:

In the Catholic Church today, baptism is most commonly administered to infants. While some other Christians strenuously object to infant baptism, believing that baptism requires assent on the part of the person being baptized, the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and other mainline Protestants also practice infant baptism, and there is evidence that it was practiced from the earliest days of the Church.

 

Since baptism removes both the guilt and the punishment due to Original Sin, delaying baptism until a child can understand the sacrament may put the child's salvation in danger, should he die unbaptized.


Adult Baptism:

Adult converts to Catholicism also receive the sacrament, unless they have already received a Christian baptism. (If there is any doubt about whether an adult has already been baptized, the priest will perform a conditional baptism.) A person can only be baptized once as a Christian—if, say, he was baptized as a Lutheran, he cannot be rebaptized when he converts to Catholicism.

 

While an adult can be baptized after proper instruction in the Faith, adult baptism normally occurs today as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and is immediately followed by Confirmation and Communion.


The Effects of the Sacrament:

Baptism has six primary effects, which are all supernatural graces:


   1. The removal of the guilt of both Original Sin (the sin imparted to all mankind by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) and personal sin (the sins that we have committed ourselves).


   2. The remission of all punishment that we owe because of sin, both temporal (in this world and in Purgatory) and eternal (the punishment that we would suffer in hell).


   3. The infusion of grace in the form of sanctifying grace (the life of God within us); the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the three theological virtues.


   4. Becoming a part of Christ.


   5. Becoming a part of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.


   6. Enabling participation in the sacraments, the priesthood of all believers, and the growth in grace.



Parents

Parents need ample time to prepare for the baptismal celebration. Parents seeking baptism for their child should contact St. Joseph Church office as early as possible.

 

Before the celebration of baptism, it is of great importance that parents should prepare to take part in the rite of baptism with understanding and the responsibility to raise their child in the faith.

 

Infants may be baptized at the request of their parents. If there is a divorce involved or a case of shared custody, the permission of the other parent should be obtained in writing and duly notarized in advance of the ceremony. If the child is adopted or if there is no legal contact with the other parent, the baptism will require only the consent of the parent with whom the child resides.

 

One or both parents should be Catholic and active in the practice of their faith. A parent who is unable to make the profession of faith, as in one who is not a Catholic, may keep silent. A non-catholic parent is only asked to give permission to instruct the child in the faith of its baptism.

 

Children must be baptized with a Christian name. [Canon Law 855]

 

While the Church no longer requires you to name your baby after a canonized saint, you might want to do so anyway. More important, naming your child after a saint automatically provides a patron, a model, and yet another special day to celebrate God's goodness and grace.

 

(You may use the same name at Confirmation. In fact, doing so reinforces the link between these sacrament).

 

However, the Church does insist that you avoid any name that is clearly anti-Christian.


Sponsors (godparents)

A sponsor together with the parents present the child for baptism, and help the child to live a Christian life befitting the baptized and faithfully to fulfill the duties inherent in baptism. In other words, parents and godparents co-share the responsibility of the spiritual growth of the child.

 

To be admitted to the role of sponsor, a person must be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken. [Canon Law874, #1.3]

 

Only one male or one female sponsor or one of each is allowed.

 

A suitable sponsor is chosen following the norms of the Code of Cannon Law.

 

1.         Completed the sixteenth year of age

 

2.         There may be one or two sponsors (Godparent is another term for the Sponsor. Canon Law only refers to Sponsors). When there are two sponsors, one is male (Godfather) and the other female (Godmother). [Canon Law 873]

 

3.         Living an upright life (e.g. not living in a marriage outside the Catholic Church).

 

4.         One sponsor must be Catholic, [Canon Law 874, #3] and be a confirmed, practicing and registered member of a Catholic Church.

 

5.         Any sponsor registered outside of St. Joseph Church needs to secure a letter or Sponsor Certificate stating that they are a practicing, registered Catholic of another parish.

 

6.         No penalties (e.g. left the Catholic Church). Therefore, a Catholic who has left the Catholic Church cannot be a sponsor, and cannot be a Christian Witness as they joined another Christian community. [Canon Law 874, #4]

 

7.         A baptized person who belongs to a non-catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only with a Catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism. [Canon Law 874, #2]

 

8.         Only a Catholic sponsor may use a proxy and must be a practicing Catholic.

 

9.         A parent is never allowed to serve as a sponsor, witness or proxy.