Baptism is the first of the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. It welcomes the person into the Church community. The baptised person becomes a member of the Body of Christ and the Church. They now share in the rights and responsibilities of the Church.
It is traditional in the Roman Catholic Church that parents bring their children to Baptism. The parents participate in a formation programme so that they understand their role as the ‘first educators of faith’. Adults interested in Baptism are walked with through the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, often referred to as RCIA.
Parents are responsible to help their child live out his/her Baptism. This responsibility is contained in what might be termed the Three R’s of Baptism. They are named at the very beginning of the rite of Baptism. The priest enters into dialogue, with the parents saying:
You have REQUESTED to have your child Baptised. In doing so you are accepting the RESPONSIBILITY of raising him/her in the faith. Do you clearly REALISE what you are undertaking?
When parents answer, “I do” to this question, they are taking upon themselves before God and the faith community a task of great importance. This is particularly important in today’s world where the values of Christ are not as evident as they were in the past.
Baptism is a responsibility which is not entered into lightly, and that is why preparation for Baptism is so important. It gives parents a chance to think everything through before making the commitment.
Norms Regarding Baptism
Both the Code of Canon Law and Rite of Baptism for Children define the normal procedures for Baptism.
Canons 849 – 878 pertain particularly to Baptism. They can be viewed from the Vatican website (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2U.HTM). Significant interest regarding the Baptism of Infants is placed on the following aspects:
Can. 851 “The celebration of baptism must be prepared properly; consequently:
The parents of an infant to be baptised and those who are to undertake the function of sponsor are to be instructed properly on the meaning of this sacrament and the obligations attached to it. The pastor, or others working on the pastor’s behalf, will personally take care so that the parents are properly instructed through both pastoral advice and common prayer, bringing several families together and, where possible, visiting them.”
Rite of Baptism for Children (5.1) adds that parents should be provided with suitable means such as “books, letters addressed to them and catechisms designed for families. The pastor should make it his duty to visit them or see that they are visited. He should gather a group of families together and prepare them for the coming celebration by pastoral counsel and common prayer”.
Parents interested in presenting a child for Baptism need to contact their local parish.
Only one Godparent is required.
To be a Godparent a person is required to be:
- 16 years or older
- A confirmed Catholic who has received first Eucharist
- Not a parent of the child
Traditionally a second person has often been asked to be a Godparent.
A baptised member of another Christian Church may be a witness rather than official Godparent. Culturally, this second person is referred to as a Godparent. By cultural tradition other witnesses to the Baptism are often also referred to as Godparents.
Growing Faith Together
The day of Baptism is a great day of celebration, marking the start of a child’s journey with God in the Body of Christ and the Church. The relationship of faith is nurtured in the home. Family Faith offers ideas of how that might happen
The Role of Godparents in Infant Baptism
It is a great honour and responsibility to be asked to be a godparent
Godparents have two key roles:
- Assisting and supporting parents in the Christian upbringing of the child.
During the liturgy of baptism they will be asked;
Are you willing to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?
Therefore they need to live a faith-filled life.
- Represent the Church family into which the child is being baptised.
During the liturgy of baptism they will also;
- Renew their baptismal vows
- Renounce Satan
- Profess the creed
Godparents may also be asked to participate in other ways during the liturgy such as holding the candle.
HOW TO BE A GODPARENT
To be a good Godparent does not require a person to be a saint. A good Godparent gives example by living in the Catholic faith. They provide guidance, support and inspiration to their godchild as they journey with God.
Baptism: Frequently Asked Questions
These responses are only indicative. To have questions fully answered according to your particular situation please contact your local parish priest or pastoral worker, or talk to a priest you know.
- You will be required to participate in some form of preparation
- While some parishes include baptism as part of Sunday Mass, other parishes have regular baptism ceremonies on Sundays after Mass or in the afternoon
- It is likely that other babies will be baptised at the same time
Do not contact the parish and tell them you want your baby baptised on a particular day.
Including a Saint’s name is therefore traditional and does provide a role model and guide to the child but it is not necessary.
It can be daunting to approach a priest or pastoral worker about these sensitive issues. Don’t be put off. Think about when would be best to approach them and be prepared to spend a bit of time talking.
The fact that you are looking for baptism for your child would suggest something is stirring within you, so don’t be afraid. Perhaps you have a friend or family member that might come and support you the first time. Remember the story of the Prodigal Son you are welcome home.
- Meeting with the priest or pastoral worker.
- Having a member of the parish visit you in your home.
- Attending parish provided sessions.