OFFICE FOR LITURGY

of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM

When a child is born, a family rejoices. The child belongs to their family. Baptism is the sacrament which makes a child part of the Family of the Church, and the Parish will rejoice with you.

Baptism: the basics
From the very beginning of the Church, baptism was the Sacrament that made people members, whether this was adults or children. By being baptised, they belonged to the family of the Church. Belonging is very important to us. But belonging is not just about a single ceremony: it is about who we are, and what we do. It is the same with baptism. To have a child baptised means that you wish them to belong to the Catholic Church - to be a part of it. This means as parents you have to ask yourselves some questions:
  • Can we honestly promise to do our best to teach our child about the Catholic Church?
  • Will we give an example of belonging by taking part in the life of the Church ourselves?
  • Can we honestly say that Baptism is more than just a way into a Catholic school?
If you answer ‘no’ or ‘not sure’ to any of these questions, you should perhaps think again about baptism in the Catholic Church.

Conditions for Baptism
Anyone can be baptised in the Catholic Church, as long as they (or their parents if they are aged under 7) can make the solemn profession of faith, and will promise to be part of the Catholic Church in the future. In the case of a child, this means that at least one of the parents must be a Roman Catholic themselves.
At least one parent must be a baptised Roman Catholic - proof of this may be required.
A person should be baptised in the Parish where they live, and permission will be required for Baptism to take place elsewhere.
A person being baptised must have at least one practising Roman Catholic godparent.

Who can be a godparent?
Only Catholics over the age of 16 may be godparents at Catholic baptisms. Other Christians may stand as Christian Witnesses (the equivalent of godparents), but must be baptised themselves - they have to make the profession of faith as well. A godparent should be both willing and able to assume the responsibilities of this role, caring for the developing faith of the baptised child, and furthering a real relationship with them.

How is Baptism celebrated?
Baptism is a rich and ancient ceremony. The priest will guide you through the celebration, so that you and your guests can fully take part. The ceremony makes rich use of SYMBOLS. First among these is WATER, which is a symbol of new life: it washes away the old in order to give birth to the new; it is also a rymbol of resurrection - as we rise from the water it reminds us of Christ rising from the tomb. We also use HOLY OIL - namely the Oil of Catechumens, which is used to prepare us for baptism, and the Sacred Chrism, the holy oil which proclaims that we are part of Christ, the Anointed One. We also use LIGHT, in the form of the presentation of a lighted candle, with the words "Receive the light of Christ". Finally a WHITE GARMENT is used, to show the clothing of ourselves in Christ by means of this Sacrament.

From the Catechism

CCC1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word."

CCC1214 This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to "plunge" or "immerse"; the "plunge" into the water symbolizes the catechumen's burial into Christ's death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as "a new creature."

CCC1215 This sacrament is also called "the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit," for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one "can enter the kingdom of God."

CCC1216 "This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this [catechetical] instruction are enlightened in their understanding . . . ." Having received in Baptism the Word, "the true light that enlightens every man," the person baptized has been "enlightened," he becomes a "son of light," indeed, he becomes "light" himself: “Baptism is God's most beautiful and magnificent gift. . . .We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God's Lordship.”