Baptism is not simply a “naming ceremony” or even just a blessing for a new baby. It is the beginning of the Christian life and the gateway to eternal life. Because of this, the sacrament of Baptism is taken very seriously in the Church.
What Baptism does for your child
In this sacrament Jesus Christ
- forgives original sin and opens the gates of heaven for us
- welcomes us into his Church
- makes us sons and daughters of God
The ceremony of Baptism assumes a well-founded hope that you will bring your child up in the practice of the faith. This means that you will:
- teach your child to pray
- teach your child to lead a good Christian life
- come to Mass on Sundays
- teach your child the Catholic faith
The Catholic Church in England and Wales aims to become an example of best practice in safeguarding children, young people and adults who may be vulnerable.
Since Baptism is never a private affair, but entry into the family of the Church, your child might well be baptised with other children. During the Baptism there are various symbols used.
1. The Gathered Assembly
The first symbol is the assembled community which welcomes the child and incorporates her into itself. It is not a random meeting of people, but is a worshipping community gathered to listen to God’s word and to celebrate its own identity in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. Sign of the Cross
At the beginning of the service the Priest/Deacon will trace the sign of the cross on the forehead of your baby and invite you and your godparents to do the same. The cross is a reminder of the love of Christ who gave his life for his friends. The tracing of a cross on the forehead of the person being baptised is an invisible ‘branding’ that says ‘you belong to Christ’.
3. The Word of God
The Scriptures are always read, whether a child is baptised during Mass or outside Mass. As the Scriptures are proclaimed, Christ himself is present in the assembly, calling us to be his disciples just as surely as he called the first disciples.
4. Baptismal Promises
You will gather around the baptismal font holding the waters of baptism and make the baptismal promises on behalf of your child affirming the faith in which your child will be baptised.
The Priest/Deacon pours water over the head of your baby and says “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is for cleansing and is a sign that our sins are washed away. Water is also necessary for life and so is a sign, too, that the life of the risen Christ is ours. It is also a sign of life. Without water nothing can grow. It is a sign of the new spiritual life into which the baptised person is entering.
6. Baptismal Candle
As a sign of the new life a Baptismal candle will be lit using the flame from the Easter Candle which symbolises the light of Christ – the Light of the World. This is the light that darkness cannot overcome. Light warms and encourages, it gives safety and illuminates the way ahead. It can burn and test substances. The baptised child, who has opened his/her eyes to the light of creation, is now awakened by the flame of faith. He/she is called to see all things through the eyes of Jesus Christ.
7. White Garment
Clothing in a white garment is part of the ceremony to symbolise your child’s new life in Christ. Your family might have a Christening gown that you want to use or a shawl. If you want to use this, then let the priest know beforehand. You might like to use a baptismal gown, either a white stole, a white scapular or a white bib – perhaps one that you have made and bearing the sign of a cross. The colour white speaks of life, purity, newness and innocence. It is also a sign of the new life of resurrection.
8. Baptismal Certificate and Baptismal Register
At the end of the ceremony you will be given a Baptismal Certificate. Your baby’s baptism will be recorded in the Parish Baptismal Register. You will want to keep the certificate carefully as it may be needed when you enrol your child in a catholic school or before he or she receives the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation. Your child’s’ confirmation, marriage or ordination will also be noted alongside this entry in the register.
Children should be baptised within the first weeks after birth. Arrangements can even be made before the child is born. (The priest will then also be able to give the blessing for an expectant mother and pray for the safe delivery of the child.) It is wrong to put off the Baptism simply in order to have a more elaborate celebration party afterwards. It is better to have the Baptism sooner and make the celebrations more simple.
Yes. A child may be baptised so long as there is a well-founded hope that they will be brought up in the practice of the Catholic faith. If you have any questions about marriage in the Catholic Church, please ask your Parish Priest because there are often misunderstandings in this area.
Yes, if you regularly come to Mass here.
If you are not coming to Mass, you need to decide which will be the church you are going to start attending. The baptism may be delayed until such a time as the Parish Priest is satisfied that you are serious about the ongoing practice of your faith.
It will usually be more appropriate (and more convenient) for you to start going to Mass at your local parish and to arrange the Baptism there. Regular (weekly) attendance at Sunday Mass (except for illness or other similar reason) on your part is assumed as this is an obligation you will be imposing upon your child in having him/her baptised.
The Canon Law of the Catholic Church states that there should be at least one Godparent. If there are two, they should be a Godfather and a Godmother.
Godparents must be Practising Catholics over 16 years of age who themselves regularly come to Mass, and have been Confirmed. They must also be living a life of faith which befits the role to be to be undertaken. The Parish Priest can advise as to the suitability of individual candidates for the role of godparent.
Alongside a Catholic Godparent, a non-Catholic who is a baptised Christian may stand as a Christian witness.
Only if one of the parents decides to become a Catholic themselves. This is a process which involves prayer, instruction and sharing in the life of the Catholic community over several months at least. The most appropriate conclusion to this process is for the family to be baptised together. Please ask the priest for further details.
In the Catholic Church, there is no "fee" for the Baptism. It is, however, appropriate to make an offering/donation. You can give this in an envelope to the priest at the time of the Baptism.