We congratulate you as you prepare to take part in the Baptism of your child. Christening is a time of celebration and joy, shared by family, friends and the parish community. God has blessed you with the precious gift of your son/daughter. We praise and thank Him for this new life.
In the Catholic Church Baptism is a sacrament of faith. It is the first step to full Christian initiation. The other steps in this process are the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the doorway to the other sacraments.
Through baptism we are incorporated into Christ. We are formed into God’s people, and we obtain forgiveness of all our sins. Furthermore, Baptism is necessary for salvation. It is the beginning of the journey to the promised eternal life in heaven, when our life on earth is complete. To fulfil the meaning of the sacrament of Baptism, children must be formed in the faith in which they have been baptised.A Sacrament of Faith
Faith is not theoretical or magical; neither is it something automatically poured into your child in baptism. It is something concrete and practical, witnessed daily in our own lives and the lives of others. We have all known people of great faith: parents, grandparents, teachers and priests, and we are grateful for the formative influences they have had on us. They have set us an good example; let us now do likewise for our children. Your child will grow imitating your actions, mannerisms, and later on, your words. The same principle applies to the ways of faith. If we are not people of faith, the seed of faith sown in baptism, will come to nothing. The Church insists that there be a ‘well founded hope’ that the child be brought up in the ways of faith. It is important that you as parents/guardians agree on the way your baby will be brought up.
Choosing a Sponsor
In the ancient Church, it was mainly adults that were baptised. Without Christian parents, they had a sponsor to teach them about Christian faith. Today, godparents act by helping the child persevere in the faith and in the Christian way of life. Their own lifestyle should reflect their faith and therefore the church insists that one of them, at least, is Catholic and have received Confirmation.
Our own Faith Commitment
In the case of infant baptism, the parents, godparents and the Christian community provide the bedrock of faith. This faith is often weak and in need of constant nourishment and renewal. We nourish and sustain our own faith by praying and by attending Sunday Mass, where we encounter the signs of faith and strengthen our spiritual self. The Church considers regular participation at Sunday Mass very important when presenting your child for baptism. During the Sacrament of Baptism, you as parents are reminded ‘that you will be the first teachers of your children in the ways of faith… you must also be the best teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what you say and do…’
Your child’s faith will grow through family prayer and later, their own personal prayers. Faith doesn’t stand still; it either grows and matures, or withers and dies. There is no profit in bringing your child to the Waters of Baptism if you abandon him/her there. You must be prepared to walk with your child, remembering ‘Christians are made, not born’. It is a lifelong process with you as the parent/guardian initiating it.The Baptism Ceremony
The ceremony begins with the priest addressing the child ‘The Christian community welcomes you with great joy’. He asks what name you have given your child and if you accept the responsibility of bringing up your child in the practice of faith. You have requested baptism for your child; this is a public sign of your own faith and trust in God’s love.
The priest makes the sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead, and the parents and godparents are invited to do likewise. Those present then listen to the Word of God, which feeds our spiritual nourishment, and helps strengthen our faith in times of doubt.Readingsfrom the Scriptures remind us of how people in Old Testament times lived in knowledge and respect of God; and in the New Testament of how people believed, witnessed and spread the Good News of the resurrection; the Gospel of course tells us about Jesus, His life, death and resurrection. The Prayer of the Faithful may follow.
Preparing for baptism itself, each child is anointed on the chest with the Oil of Catechumens. This oil is an ancient symbol of the strength required to grow and live as a Christian. Water is essential for life. The Waters of Baptism give new life to these children. The priest asks the parents and godparents, to renew their baptismal promises and reminds them that it is they who profess the faith, which they seek and long for their child to share. The priest now baptises the child by pouring water on the head and saying: N… I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The child’s head is anointed with the Oil of Chrism. Jesus was anointed and given a special calling to suffer, die and rise again for us, thus bringing about theKingdom ofGod. Every Christian shares this calling to build love, justice and peace in the world.
Following Baptism, the child is wrapped in a white shawl by a sponsor, as an outward sign that he/she is now a new creation clothed in Christ. The sponsor then lights the child’s Baptismal Candle from the Paschal candle. The light and love of Jesus is being passed onto a new Christian through the faith of those around them. A special prayer is recited over the ears and mouth of the child, in the hope that they will hear and speak the Word of God. This is followed by the congregation saying the Lord’s Prayer. The ceremony ends with special blessing for the mother, father, and all who have joined with the child for this sacred celebration.
Throughout the ceremony parents and godparents should lead the responses to the question and invitations being asked by the priest.
May God bless and enrich you and your family in the faith, tradition and teaching of the Church of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.