Baptism first Sacrament for a Christian
(From the Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Baptism (form the Greek word 'baptizo' meaning 'washing') is the first sacrament a Christian receives. The rite, or ceremony, marks and indeed begins a new life in Christ. In accordance with the Lord's will, it is necessary for salvation - as is the Church herself - to receive baptism. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). The essential ceremony involves immersing the prospective Christian in water or pouring water on his head, while invoking the name of the Most Holy Trinity:
The FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY SPIRIT.
Baptism is more than a sign, it actually gives grace and causes the Holy Spirit to live inside the recipient's soul. Special graces are given to a recipient, rescuing the soul from the eternal effects of sin: damnation and separation from God. A person's sins are forgiven, or 'washed away', both those he has committed himself (personal sin), and also the defects of body and soul passed down from our first parents Adam and Eve (original sin). The new Christian becomes an adopted son of the Father, a member of Christ's Body the Church and a temple of the Holy Spirit. A baptised person is made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ, not as an ordained priest, but in the sense of going out into the world to profess Jesus Christ as Lord and living as a member of the People of God.
Baptism leaves a permanent mark on one's soul, a new 'character' or sign which separates that person for Christian worship and service to God. Baptism cannot be repeated nor 'undone' by any human action, nor could it ever be desirable to do so. Since the earliest Christian days, in which entire families were baptised together, this sacrament has been given to children. This is not because they have sinned personally, but so that their souls may be cleansed of Original Sin which affect all humans after the sin of Adam and Eve. An analogy to this would be a mother smoking or drinking during pregnancy, the child has no personal fault, though he or she will undoubtedly suffer. This is a beautiful lesson for us all, that when we love God and become Christian, he cleanses not only us but also our children as a part of his promises to us. It also reminds us that the grace of God is purely his gift to us, we could never earn it by ourselves. Baptised children are raised in the true Christian faith and is thus blessed with true Christian freedom from that point onwards.
In regards to children who have died without baptism we are asked by the Church to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation, the means of salvation for such individuals remains a mystery. In case of emergency, such as a dying newborn infant, anyone can baptise provided that he or she have the intention of doing what the Church - the washing away of original and/or personal sins. The baptiser MUST either sprinkle or pour water on the recipient's head while saying: "I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". Those who die for the Catholic faith, and those who die without knowledge of the Church but i) acting under God's inspiration of grace, ii) seek him sincerely and iii) work to fulfill his will, can be saved from eternal damnation even if they have not been baptised.
Request for Baptism
Parents who wish their child(ren) to be Baptised should first make contact with one of our Parish Secretaries during Office Hours to enrol on the next available Preparation Course. There are Courses several times in each calendar year conducted by Parish Catechists. At the meetings participants explore the meaning of the Sacrament and give consideration to the commitment being undertaken on behalf of the children by their parents and Godparents. Parents who are expecting a child are welcome to join the preparation programme and may indeed find it easier to do so before their child has been born. Godparents are also welcome to participate when circumstances permit. Before a priest may Baptise a child, he must be assured that the parents are willing and able to bring the child up in the knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith.
Sunday is the day on which all Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and the opportunity the Lord gives us to share in his new life and so Baptisms are normally celebrated on this day of the week. Usually this is shortly after the conclusion of the last Mass on Sunday morning. If the parents wish, Baptism can be celebrated actually within a Sunday Mass but this option must be fully discussed with the priest. Any family who are living outside the Parish of St Mary's and who wish to present a child for baptism must obtain the written permission of their own Parish Priest. Children over the age of 7 years must take part in an appropriate course of preparation themselves, as must all adults.
Jesus Christ was baptised in the River Jordan by St John the Baptist, not for himself, but for all
sinners, that he may "fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15-17). God the Holy Spirit, who once hovered above
the waters of the first creation, came down from Heaven and now hovered above the waters of the beginning
of a new creation; a redeemed world in Jesus Christ. This was confirmed by the words of the God the
Father: "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased", revealing the Trinity and God's plan to save mankind from sin.
"Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"- Acts 2:38
'Baptism in the name' means 'to be, by the fact of baptism, consecrated, dedicated, subjected to someone', . . . Jesus has been shown to be the Messiah. To join his community, to belong to him, his baptism must be received. Thus 'baptism in the name of Jesus' is not a liturgical formula, but distinguishes Christian baptism from that of John the Baptist. [A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, edited by Dom Bernard Orchard, London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1953]. This new baptism not only symbolised repentance, but actually and truly washed away sins, and has been used by Christ's One, Catholic and Apostolic Church since the first days of Christianity.
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household...the jailer was baptised at once, with all his family" - Acts 16:31-33
Entire families were baptised as part of the New Covenant, or new promise, made to all mankind that in Jesus Christ eternal life would be found in his Church and sacraments. Just like the Old Covenant made to the Israelites before, this covenant was meant not just for individuals but their families also. Baptism is the Christian equivalent of circumcision' in the Old Covenant, only this sacrament cleanses the soul of a person, rather than merely physically marking the males of God's people.