The Sacrament of Baptism is often called “The door of the Church,” because it is the first of the seven sacraments (link https://www.learnreligions.com/sacraments-of-the-catholic-church-542136) not only in time (since most Catholics receive it as infants) but in priority since the reception of the other sacraments depends on it. It is the pathway to the other sacraments.
Through baptism, we become members of Christ and of the church and are freed from sin.
It is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation (link https://www.learnreligions.com/the-sacraments-of-initiation-542133), the other two being the Sacrament of Confirmation (Link https://www.learnreligions.com/the-sacrament-of-confirmation-542118) and the Sacrament of Holy Communion (Link https://www.learnreligions.com/the-sacrament-of-holy-communion-542131)
Traditionally, the rite (or ceremony) of baptism was held outside the doors of the main part of the church, to signify this fact.
The Necessity of Baptism:
Christ Himself ordered His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations and to baptize those who accept the message of the Gospel. In His encounter with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) https://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drb&bk=50&ch=3&l=1#x, Christ made it clear that baptism was necessary for salvation: “Amen, amen I say to thee unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
For Catholics, the sacrament is not a mere formality; it is the very mark of a Christian because it brings us into a new life in Christ.
The Effects of the Sacrament of Baptism:
Baptism has six primary effects, which are all supernatural graces:
- The removal of the guilt of both Original Sin (the sin imparted to all mankind by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) and personal sin (the sins that we have committed ourselves).
- The remission of all punishment that we owe because of sin, both temporal (in this world and in Purgatory) and eternal (the punishment that we would suffer in hell).
- The infusion of grace in the form of sanctifying grace https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-sanctifying-grace-541683 (the life of God within us); the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit https://www.learnreligions.com/gifts-of-the-holy-spirit-542143; and the three theological virtues https://www.learnreligions.com/what-are-the-theological-virtues-542106.
- Becoming a part of Christ.
- Becoming a part of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.
- Enabling participation in the sacraments, the priesthood of all believers, and the growth in grace https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-sacramental-grace-541728.
The Form of the Sacrament of Baptism:
While the Church has an extended rite of Baptism which is normally celebrated, which includes roles for both parents and godparents, the essentials of that rite are two: the pouring of water over the head of the person to be baptized (or the immersion of the person in water); and the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Minister of the Sacrament of Baptism:
Since the form of baptism requires just the water and the words, the sacrament, like the Sacrament of Marriage https://www.learnreligions.com/the-sacrament-of-marriage-542134, does not require a priest; any baptized person can baptize another. In fact, when the life of a person is in danger, even a non-baptized person—including someone who does not himself believe in Christ—can baptize, provided that the person performing the baptism follows the form of baptism and intends, by the baptism, to do what the Church does—in other words, to bring the person being baptized into the fullness of the Church.
In certain cases where a baptism has been performed by an extraordinary minister—that is, someone other than a priest, the ordinary minister of the sacrament—a priest may later perform a conditional baptism.
A conditional baptism, however, would only be performed if there were grave doubt about the validity of the original application of the sacrament—for instance, if a nontrinitarian formula were used, or if the baptism had been performed by a non-baptized person who later admitted that he did not have the proper intention.
A conditional baptism is not a “rebaptism”; the sacrament can only be received once. And a conditional baptism cannot be performed for any reason other than grave doubt about the validity of the original application—for instance, if a valid baptism has been performed, a priest cannot perform a conditional baptism so that family and friends can be present.
What Makes a Baptism Valid?
As discussed above, the form of the Sacrament of Baptism has two essential elements: the pouring of water over the head of the person to be baptized (or the immersion of the person in water); and the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
In addition to these two essential elements, however, the person performing the baptism must intend what the Catholic Church intends in order for the baptism to be valid. In other words, when he baptizes “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he must mean in the name of the Trinity, and he must intend to bring the person being baptized into the fullness of the Church.
Does the Catholic Church Consider Non-Catholic Baptisms Valid?
If both the elements of a baptism and the intention with which it is performed are present, the Catholic Church considers that baptism to be valid, no matter who performed the baptism. Since Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians meet the two essential elements in their form of baptism as well as have the proper intention, their baptisms are considered valid by the Catholic Church.
On the other hand, while members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly called “Mormons”) refer to themselves as Christians, they do not believe the same thing that Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants believe about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Rather than believing that these are Three Persons in One God (the Trinity), the LDS Church teaches that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate deities. Therefore, the Catholic Church has declared that LDS baptism is not valid, because Mormons, when they baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” do not intend what Christians intend—that is, they do not intend to baptize in the name of the Trinity.
In the Catholic Church today, baptism is most commonly administered to infants. While some other Christians strenuously object to infant baptism, believing that baptism requires assent on the part of the person being baptized, the Eastern Orthodox https://www.learnreligions.com/eastern-orthodox-church-denomination-700624, Anglicans, Lutherans, and other mainline Protestants also practice infant baptism, and there is evidence that it was practiced from the earliest days of the Church.
Since baptism removes both the guilt and the punishment due to Original Sin, delaying baptism until a child can understand the sacrament may put the child’s salvation in danger, should he die unbaptized?
Adult converts to Catholicism also receive the sacrament, unless they have already received a Christian baptism. (If there is any doubt about whether an adult has already been baptized, the priest will perform a conditional baptism.) A person can only be baptized once as a Christian—if, say, he was baptized as a Lutheran, he cannot be “rebaptized” when he converts to Catholicism.
While an adult can be baptized after proper instruction in the Faith, adult baptism normally occurs today as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and is immediately followed by Confirmation and Communion.
If you would like to arrange for your child to be baptised, please contact Fr. Jim link Holy Family contact page. He will want to meet you to get to know you, talk about baptism, and make sure you are familiar with the rite. An important point to bear in mind is that you will need at least one Catholic godparent (ideally two) for the baptism.
If you do not live or worship regularly in our parish and would like to arrange a baptism at Holy Family or St Annes Westby, please get in touch link Holy Family contact page so that we can give permission for the baptism to take place in our church.
If you are an adult who has not been baptised, and are interested in learning more about the Catholic faith, please get in touch Holy Family contact page as well
Father Jim Allen