Frequently Asked Questions on Baptism

 

At What Age Should Baptism Occur?

It is the first of three sacraments of initiation.

In the Catholic tradition, infants (and young children) receive the sacrament of baptism to celebrate their entrance into the faith community. Parents vow to take on the responsibility of raising their child in the Catholic Faith. Parents and godparents gather with family and the Catholic Community to formalize their acceptance of this long-term commitment.

Older children and adults may receive the sacrament of baptism at the Easter Vigil by entering a faith formation process of discernment and conversion.  The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (or Children) is the process for those over the age of seven to receive baptism.

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Regarding Godparents:

What is the Role of Godparents?

Dear Godparents,

                Thank you for being a part of one of the most important days of my life.  This is the day God adopted me as his child.  I may be too young to remember this special day, but through you and my parents I will be reminded of it as I grow older.

                My parents have chosen you to be my godparents because they feel that you are trustworthy people who will help them with their     responsibility in forming and caring for my spiritual life.  In helping my parents care for my spiritual life, I hope that you remember to pray for me.  I need your prayers every day of my life so that I may always walk in the light of the Lord.  I would like to retire each day knowing that you love me and that you prayed to God for me.

                As I grow up, I hope you take an active role in my Catholic education.  Will you tell me bible stories and help me understand them?  Will you see to it that I am educated in the Catholic faith and I attend weekly Mass?  And when I am ready, see to it that I receive my First Communion?

                Lastly, let me see Christ in you in the things you say and do so I have someone in my life whom will be a positive Christian role model.  I pray that God will give you the wisdom and strength to do His will.

                Please don’t think of me as just one more person whom you need to shower with gifts.  I pray that you’ll remember me in your prayers, and that I need your love, support, and examples.  Those are the most precious and important gifts you can give to me

                Thank you for your love, concern, and prayers for me.  May God bless you and keep you in his care and one day may we enter His Kingdom and share eternity with God.

Love, Your Godchild

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Who do you chose as a godparent?

    • Catholic Christian relatives or friends who serve as a Christian role model for your child.
    • Someone who gives witness to God in their everyday lives.
    • Someone who is willing to maintain a long-term relationship with your child.
    • Someone you would entrust with the raising of your child in faith.
    • A proxy for the ceremony may be chosen if the godparent cannot attend.

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 What are the Requirements of Canon Law?

    • One sponsor, male or female, is sufficient; but there may be two, one of each sex.
    • The sponsor must be a Catholic who has received all three sacraments of Christian initiation, at least 16 years of age, and must moreover live ‘a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken’.
    • If you feel your special circumstances require additional godparents, you can name additional Christian witnesses, but only 2 godparents are included on the Baptism Certificate.

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The Baptismal Ceremony

What is involved in the baptism ceremony?

There is a basic outline to the rite of baptism. The presider will assist parents and families participating in baptism.

  1. Opening questions to parents
  2. Opening questions to Godparents
  3. Signing with the Cross
  4. Liturgy of the Word/homily
  5. Blessing of the Font
  6. Renewal of Baptismal Promise
  7. Baptisms
  8. Blessing with Chrism
  9. Sharing of Light
  10. Placing of Baptismal Garment

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What do the Baptism Symbols Mean?

Water

Water is a symbol of both life and death. Its use in baptism is central to the sacrament representing taking on a new life in Christ. You may choose one of two options to baptize your child at Holy Family: sprinkling or immersion. 

In the first option, baptismal water is sprinkled over the forehead three times, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Immersion is a more dramatic and powerful water ritual. In immersion, the child’s backside is immersed (not submersed) into the baptismal water three times symbolizing that the newly baptized is dying to sin and rising to new life. Immersion is most similar to the baptism performed by early Christians.

Candle

The baptismal candle is a symbol of the light of Christ which is coming into the child’s life.
The Paschal [Easter] Candle is always lit and present near the altar during mass and baptism ceremonies. The Paschal Candle represents the light of Christ.

The baptismal candle is provided by our presider, lit from the Paschal candle after the water baptism.

The lit candle is presented to the baptized, held by the father or a godparent during the remainder of the ceremony. The presentation of light represents how the newly baptized will become a son or daughter of “the light.”

We encourage the use of the baptismal candle at family birthday celebrations to celebrate the anniversary of being baptized into the Christian family.

White garment

White is a symbol of transition and change; purity and cleansing. Its use in the baptism is a visible sign of putting on Christ, of taking on a new way of life. Baptismal garments are created by our Baptismal Garment Ministry.

Infants are given a white bib, and older children receive a small stole.

We present this to your child in community as an outward sign that we, as fellow Christians, also accept the responsibility of helping you as you raise your child in the faith of the Catholic Church.

Oil

Oil is a symbol used in many sacraments representing power and strength which comes from the Lord. It also has healing properties. Chrism means “to anoint.” This baptismal oil, chrism, is olive oil with special perfume which is blessed by the bishop in a special ceremony once a year. In the baptismal ceremony it is used to anoint forehead of the newly baptized. This oil is used to anoint a baptized Christian in the sacraments of Confirmation and Ordination.

The anointing of the heads of the newly baptized with chrism is accompanied with a declaration which shows that Baptism is the foundation of Christian life: “God (…) has freed you from sin and willed that you be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, uniting you with his people, he himself consecrates you with the chrism of salvation so that as part of Christ, priest, king and prophet you may be members of his body for life everlasting.” With Baptism the whole of our existence is called to become living witness.

The presider may also choose to anoint the breastbone during the baptism ceremony using the Oil of Catechumens. This is plain olive oil which is blessed by the bishop.
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What happens if I don’t baptize my infant immediately after birth?

In medieval times, Christian theologians termed a state of being, limbo, to explain where unbaptized souls go. Until Vatican II, this was teaching of the Catholic Church. We now recognize baptism as an essential sacrament of the Catholic faith requiring spiritual maturity of the parents, or the discerned older child or adult entering the Catholic faith. The ceremony is only one component of the baptism process. It is a celebration with family and the Catholic community. It’s a ritual which formalizes the vow of parents and godparents who commit to raising their child in the faith. As such, the parents best decide on the timing. There should be no fear of punishment for unbaptized infants who may fall ill.
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