The rite of Baptism is the first of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church and marks the beginning of a person’s journey in faith with God. It is one of the three Sacraments of Initiation, which establish the foundations of Christian life. The other Sacraments of Initiation are Confirmation and Eucharist.
Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as a son or daughter of God. In Baptism we become members of Christ and are incorporated into the Church, becoming sharers in her mission.
To baptise means to immerse in water. Jesus chose to be baptised by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. After his resurrection, Jesus gave his apostles the mission to “Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
In the Catholic Church Baptism involves a priest immersing the person in water or pouring water on their head, while invoking the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism, a person is immersed into the death of Christ and rises with him as a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17) free of sin.
While some people seek Baptism later in life, the majority of Catholics are baptised as a baby or child. While it is an important event in the life of a family, it is more than just a private family celebration. When a child becomes a member of God’s family through Baptism, the Church community commits to supporting the parents and the child in their faith journeys.
In a Baptism ceremony parents renew their own commitment to Christ in the Church, and pledge to live out the ways of Christ in their daily lives. Godparents also renew their commitment to Christ. Godparents are people who have agreed to assist and support the parents in leading the child into the ways of Christ on behalf of the community of believers into which the child is being baptised. For this reason, godparents must be members of the Catholic Church who have themselves received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
Ideally, preparing parents for the Baptism of their child takes place within the parish community, along with other parents. It can also take place in the parents’ home. A priest, trained lay parish worker or volunteer will conduct the preparation.
For adults seeking Baptism into the Catholic Church there is a programme called “The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)”. This initiation programme begins with entry into the catechumenate and reaches its culmination in a single celebration of the three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Usually, but not always, this takes place during the Vigil Mass on Easter Saturday night.
For more information of Baptism programmes and resources in your area, contact your diocese.
Giver of life and all the gifts we share,
look with love and tenderness on us.
Bless our lives, and help us to reflect the love Christ has for us.
Fill us with your love, and let us bring your light into our family.
Help us to nurture love in our child’s life, and offer guidance on his/her journey of faith.
Bless us, Father, in our own journey, as we give you praise and glory.
We ask this grace through Christ our Lord, in the love of your Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.
How can a baby have sin to take away?
Catholics believe that everyone is born with original sin, and needs to be brought into the kingdom of God’s children.
Who can be baptised?
Anyone who has not already been baptised can receive the sacrament of Baptism.
What does Baptism achieve?
Baptism takes away all sin including original sin, personal sin and punishment due to sin. It makes a person part of the life of the Trinity through sanctifying grace. It also makes a person part of a global family of Christians who have been baptised, and part of Christ and his Church forever.
What if one of the parents presenting their child for Baptism is not a Catholic?
During a Baptism ceremony, parents renew their own commitment to the faith by making a Profession of Faith. If one parent is not a Catholic and/or has no religious belief, they must give permission for the child to be instructed in the Catholic faith.
Do there need to be godparents?
Yes. Godparents support the family in nurturing the faith of the child and act as representatives for the Church Community.
Who can be a godparent?
A godparent must be at least 16 years of age, and must have received the three Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist).
What if the people I want as Godparents are not Catholic?
At a Catholic Baptism godparents agree to assist and support the parents and the child in their faith journeys, on behalf of the Catholic community into which the child is being baptised. For this reason godparents must be Catholic for a child to be baptised into the Catholic faith. However, Catholics believe that Baptism using water and invoking the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit makes all these people brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they are Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox. Therefore a person who has been baptised in another Christian faith using the Trinitarian formula may act as a Christian witness.
Who can baptise?
Normally it is a priest who baptises. A deacon can also baptise. If none of these people are available, a Catholic lay person can baptise provided they have the intention of doing what the Church does. This is done by pouring water on the head of the baptismal candidate while saying the Trinitarian formula for Baptism: “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
How do I find out about adult Baptism?
For adults seeking Baptism into the Catholic Church there is a programme called “The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)”. This initiation programme begins with entry into the catechumenate and reaches its culmination in a single celebration of the three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Contact your diocese to find out about Baptism programmes in your area.
What happens in a Baptism ceremony?
Those who are being baptised, their families, friends and the church community gather together. Words of welcome are exchanged and then names that have been chosen for the child are announced. All present unite in the opening prayers, which are followed by the daily scripture reading. More prayers are offered for those who are to be baptised, for their families, friends and all who are present. The baptismal candidate is anointed with Oil of Catechumens as a sign of Christ's power in overcoming evil. All present renew their own baptismal vows. The priest then pours holy water over the forehead of the baptismal candidate three times as he says the words of baptism. The newly baptised is then anointed with Oil of Chrism as a sign of sealing with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Like Christ, the one baptised in now an “anointed one”. He or she is then covered with a white cloth as a sign of being a new creation clothed in Christ. A candle is lit from the paschal or Easter candle to symbolise the light of Christ now present in the newly baptised. There are final prayers and a blessing that all present may love and serve the Lord in peace and goodwill.