You might ask, “Why do we have to come to a class just to have our baby baptized?” You attend childbirth classes before your baby is born. It seems only fitting that you attend a Baptism class before you child is born into the new life of Christ. We hope to encourage you, as parents to re-examine the meaning of your own faith. By offering this class, the parish is showing its love for you and its eagerness to support you as parents, as well as your children. Please contact the parish office for scheduling.
In the early Church, it was primarily adults being baptized. Due to the persecution of Christians and spies for the government, you had to have a sponsor who would vouch for your intentions. Then, you had to be accepted by the bishop before becoming a catechumen, which means “one under instruction.”
The catechumen had to undergo a period of instruction during which time he or she was not allowed to stay for the entire Mass celebration but had to leave after the homily, as with the RCIA today. After completing the instruction period Baptism was usually held at the Saturday night Easter Vigil Mass, as we do with adult Baptisms today.
Many baptisteries were built in the form of tombs to emphasize that Baptism is a sign of burial and resurrection with Christ. The catechumen would descend three steps into the baptistery, symbolizing Jesus’ three days in the tomb before his resurrection. He or she would then be immersed three times in the water to signify the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There followed an anointing with the oil of chrism. Prayers for the person to be filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit were offered. The catechumen would be clothed in a white linen robe, signifying the Risen Christ, and handed a lighted candle, signifying the light of Christ. The awaiting Christian community then welcomed the newly baptized person into the family of faith.
We still have these same symbols today. The ceremony begins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The celebrant, or other minister, will proclaim the Word of God, and then the one to be baptized is anointed with the oil of catechumens and renounces Satan. The baptismal water is blessed so that those who are to be baptized may be “born of water and the Spirit.” At the Church of the Magdalen, when adults are baptized they descend three steps into the waters of Baptism. When babies are baptized the parents hold him or her so that the child’s head is positioned over the font while the priest or deacon pours water over the head of the child three times, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then the newly baptized is anointed with sacred chrism, perfumed oil, consecrated by the bishop, which signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit. A white garment is placed on the child that symbolizes that the newly baptized has “put on Christ”.
Baptism is the first of the “Sacraments of Initiation, which also include Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. These three sacraments were given at the same time in the ancient Church. They were later separated into three sacraments due to the beginning of infant Baptism in about 250 A.D. However, in adult baptism today, they are once again received at the same time.
The formal sacrament of Baptism celebrated either during Mass or outside the Mass with a priest or deacon presiding.
Emergency Baptism can be done by anyone at a time of grave risk of death. For example it may be appropriate in a hospital delivery room when a priest is not immediately available or at the scene of a serious accident or sudden illness. “In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian Baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes.” ccc 1256 If water is available he or she should pour water over the persons head and repeat “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Anyone being called upon to do an emergency Baptism should be sure, after the fact, to contact a Catholic church or priest for purposes of documentation of the sacrament.
Baptism of Desire addresses the issue of death of a catechumen before receiving the sacrament of Baptism. By their act of voluntarily becoming a catechumen and repenting of their sins they demonstrate their desire for salvation, which is sufficient to assure their salvation.
In the event of the death of an infant or child prior to receiving the sacrament of Baptism “the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rite for them”. ccc 1261
The Church asks that you choose an appropriate Christian name for your child. “In Baptism, the Lord’s name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercessions.” ccc 2156
The godparents you choose for your child will be their first contact with members of their extended family, the Church. The titles of godfather and godmother are reserved for those special people whose lives reflect a Christian witnessing and whose participation at Baptism is a profession of their own faith. Normally in infant Baptism the parents choose a godmother and a godfather. However, only one baptismal sponsor is required. A Baptized, non-Catholic, person may be chosen as a witness to the sacrament along with a Catholic sponsor. Godparents must be at least 16 years of age, have received the sacrament of Confirmation, and be actively participating in their faith and the sacraments of the Church.
There are no fees or charges assessed by the Church or parish to receive the sacrament of Baptism. It is acceptable and proper, if the family chooses to do so, to extend an offering of appreciation to either the parish church or the priest or deacon who presided at the celebration.