Sacrament of Baptism
Welcome to God's Family!
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit . . . And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Mt. 28: 19-20).
"From the moment Jesus said (these words), the disciples went out to baptize. And from that time until today, there is a chain in the transmission of the faith through Baptism. And each one of us is a link in that chain!" (Pope Francis, General Audience of January 15, 2014).
Baptism (specifically, Infant Baptism) is a welcoming ritual with a unique opportunity to connect with Catholic families at a very meaningful time in their lives. Formation (preparation) for parents seeking Baptism for their infant (or young child) were mandated by the new Rite of Infant Baptism in 1969 immediately after the Second Vatican Council. The Council highlighted the role of parents as the first and most important teachers of the faith.
The Church stands as a ready partner with parents in the on-going formation of their children, beginning at baptism. Click here for a list of Preparation Resources for Infant Baptism.
Baptism is the first sacrament and the gateway to life in the Spirit. Each of the other sacraments builds on the grace of Baptism. Through Baptism, a person becomes a member of the Church and a disciple of Jesus. Original sin is cleansed and the person gains the promise of eternal life in Christ. Baptism is celebrated only once in a person's lifetime.
Welcoming each new member is the responsibility of all those who have been baptized. Baptism can be celebrated during Sunday Mass, allowing the entire parish community to rejoice in the arrival of new life in the family and in the Church. Baptism can also be celebrated outside of Mass. Baptism connects us ---for life---to the worldwide Christian family.
Godparents have the privileged role of assisting parents to nurture the child's faith from childhood though maturity. According to Canon Law (#872-874) a godparent must be at least sixteen years of age and be fully initiated into the faith (i.e. has received the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist). He or she should lead a life of faith in harmony with the duty undertaken. The godparent may not be one of the parents of the child being baptized. One godparent is required for Baptism and a maximum of two can participate in the ritual and be recorded in the baptismal record.
Elements for family preparation/catechesis
These best practices for preparing families to celebrate the Baptism of their child are important to keep in mind and integrate into parish practice. A first step in any planning process is to ask: "What is our goal in preparing a family for the Baptism of their baby?" More than getting ready for a day, baptismal preparation lays the foundation that will assist parents and godparents to take on their roles as "first catechists" and primary educators of faith in their family.
Because Baptism provides a tremendous opportunity for the parish community to establish and strengthen its relationship with the child's parents, the following elements can serve to catechize and evangelize:
- Welcoming - Parishes can invite new parents to have their baby baptized through personal invitation and with ongoing notices in the bulletin or parish website. The initial contact is key; therefore, when parents request Baptism, the parish response should reflect the joy of the event rather than questions about membership. When people feel connected and engaged they will be more apt to join and participate in the parish.
Celebrating - Ideally, the Rite of Baptism is celebrated within a parish Mass with special emphasis on welcoming the new Christian. The baptismal ritual is rich in symbols that remind us of God's unconditional love, the promise of eternal life and our missions to live as disciples of Jesus.
On-Going and Lifelong
- The most influential factor on the development of an active faith life in a young adult is the faith life of their parents. Therefore, parish-based preparation that engages parents and families in the life of the parish and nurtures the "Domestic Church" -- the church of the home -- is an essential part of handing on the faith to future generations. The Office of Lifelong Faith Formation
is ready to assist parishes to develop and/or strengthen post-baptismal follow-up. Do not miss this opportunity to establish a relationship with young families. Preparation is for the entire Christian life, not just for the day of Baptism!
The following resource can be used with parents, as well as any adult group as a tool for reflection on one's own baptism: Baptism: Incorporated into Christ's Body, Sent on Christ's Mission - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
For more information about creating or strengthening your parish's outreach to families through Infant Baptism preparation, email our department or call 716-847-5501.
Children aged seven and older are prepared for Baptism through the parish-based Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (with adaptations for children). Email or call 716-847-5501, for information about the RCIA.