What is it?
Baptism is the first of the seven sacraments, and it is one that all the Christian denominations share in common, even though each religion baptizes at different ages and some in different ways. As baptism leaves an indelible mark on a person, they can only be baptized once in their lives.
In the eyes of the Catholic Church, any baptism that uses water and the formula “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” is a valid baptism.
Your Baby’s Baptism
Early in the Baptism ceremony the priest says “The Christian Community welcomes you with great joy.” This is the core theme and meaning of the ceremony.
The Sacrament of Baptism
In the Sacraments we meet Jesus. Baptism is a Sacrament. Sacraments use familiar, everyday things, (like water, oil, bread, movement) to make real for us the presence of Jesus. Each day we use words and signs to communicate with one another. God also communicates with us in the sacraments through words and signs. The signs used in Baptism are water, oil, white garment and light. When someone is baptised, that person is joyfully made a child of God the Father, a brother or sister of Christ, and a member of the people of God, the Church.
The Celebration of Baptism
The Baptism ceremony normally involves movement from one place in the church to another place. From the welcome at the door; to the top of the church; to the Baptismal Font; to the Altar, and then home. This is a journey, reminding us that the Christian life is a journey with and to the Risen Jesus. Because the design of some churches does not make this movement easy, the ceremony may be conducted in one designated area, usually near the baptismal font.
However, the norm will follow the steps outlined here:
The priest greets the parents, godparents and friends who are waiting with the child, inside the door of the Church.
The parents declare that they want Baptism for their child, they give the baby’s name and promise that they will bring the child up in the Catholic faith and be good and practising Catholics themselves. The priest then signs the baby’s forehead with the sign of the cross and invites the parents and godparents to do the same.
Those taking part in the ceremony now go to the front of the Church. If there is more than one family, each family takes a seat, with the mother holding her baby. All listen to readings from Scripture and some special prayers are said. (Ministers of the Word and/or family members may read the scriptures and prayers.) The saints are also asked to help and guide us. The priest anoints the child on the chest with the Oil of Baptism, as a sign that he/she is being set aside for a special friendship with Jesus. (Please have the top buttons undone to make it easier to anoint the child).
After the water is blessed, parents and godparents and all present are asked to renew their Baptismal vows. Then the parents and godparents are invited to come around the Baptismal Font. The priest pours water on the child’s head, saying: “I Baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The child is then anointed on the forehead with the Oil of Chrism. The godmother assists in wrapping the child in a white Baptismal shawl. The child’s baptismal candle is lit from the large Easter Candle. This is handed to the parents with the words: “Receive the light of Christ.” The priest touches the child’s ears and mouth and prays that the child may soon hear God’s Word and praise Him in prayer.
In the final part of the ceremony, the family is invited to bring the baby, who has just become a new creation, a new person, to the altar.
In this action there is a pointing forward to Confirmation, the Mass and First Holy Communion. To share in the Mass is the privilege of the baptised. These Sacraments will complete the child’s entry into the Christian believing community.
This part includes the saying of the great prayer of the Christian community, the Our Father. Finally, special blessings for the baby, the parents and for all present are said. Parents are reminded that they will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith.
Registration of Baptism
After the ceremony, the parish priest records the baptism in the Baptismal Register of the parish. This record includes the full names of the child, parents and godparents, the child’s date of birth, the date of the baptism and the name of the officiating priest or deacon.
A Ceritificate of Baptism can then be issued by the parish as and when required.