Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20, NAB).
Introduction to Baptism
Baptism is one of the greatest gifts that Christ has given us, and one of the greatest gifts that parents can give to their children. Through Baptism, a person is united to the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; or, to put it another way, what Jesus did for us by dying and rising is applied individually to the baptized person.
When someone is baptized, the risen life of the Lord Jesus begins to live in that person’s soul. This person begins the adventure of the Christian life, in which he or she is called to become like Jesus Himself. It is our union with the Lord Jesus, which begins with Baptism, that gives us the hope of heaven.
Baptism then is far more than a "naming ceremony" or even just a blessing for a new child. It should be the highest priority of every Christian parent to see that their child is baptized very early in his/her earthly life. Because of the importance of Baptism, this Sacrament is approached with great reverence and care in the Church.
Baptism is a Sacrament. In our Catholic Faith, the Sacraments have a tremendous importance. We believe that Jesus Christ instituted the seven Sacraments as the means by which He would share His divine life with us. The technical term for the divine life of Jesus Christ dwelling in us is “sanctifying grace.” The Sacraments are actions (or “outward signs”) through which we are actually and really united to Jesus Christ, and through which He shares His life with us. Baptism must always be the first Sacrament one receives, and so is the gateway to the whole life of grace.
As great a gift as Baptism is, it is only the first moment of the Christian life. Consider this parallel: a child who has been given the gift of (natural) life must continue to be fed in order to survive. Likewise, a child who has been baptized must be brought up in the practice of the Faith in order for the life of Jesus that has been received to survive and flourish.
Baptism assumes a well-founded hope that you will bring your child up in the practice of the Faith. This means that when you ask to have your child baptized, you should be resolved to:
- teach your child to pray;
- teach your child by word and example to lead a virtuous life;
- attend Mass every Sunday, making this a part of your child’s life;
- teach your child the Catholic faith.
At least one parent should be willing to make this commitment. Ideally, of course, both parents would be fully committed to this effort.
Role of a Sponsor/Godparent
A sponsor/godparent is asked to make a commitment to help the parents raise their child in the practice of the Catholic Faith. This can best be done by:
- giving good example in living the Faith;
- encouraging the child in virtue and religious practice;
- praying for the child.
Sponsors/Godparents do not take on any specific responsibility to provide physical care for the child in the case of the death or disability of the parents.
Requirements for Sponsors/Godparents
Since a godparent is “sponsoring” a child for membership in the Catholic Church, he or she must be a practicing Catholic who has received the three Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation). A sponsor should normally be at least 16 years of age, as a confirmed person would usually be.
An essential aspect of being a practicing Catholic is living in accord with the Catholic understanding of marriage. Therefore, if a sponsor/godparent is married he or she must be in a validly recognized Catholic marriage. If a sponsor/godparent is not married, he or she must not be living with his or her significant other.
*Sponsors are asked to provide a recent copy of their baptismal certificate to serve as proof of receiving the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage, if applicable. Sponsors who are members of another parish are additionally asked to provide proof of membership via a signed letter by the pastor accompanied by a parish seal.
Only one sponsor is required. There may be (and usually are) two sponsors; in this case, there must be one male and one female.
Since one must be a full member of the Catholic Church to sponsor another person to be received into the communion of the Catholic Church, only Catholics can be sponsors/godparents. However, if a child being baptized has only one sponsor/godparent, a non-catholic Christian may serve as an additional witness of the Baptism and be recorded as such.
At St. Bernard’s Catholic Church parents of children to be baptized are asked to attend a baptismal preparation course. For more information please contact the parish office.
The Baptism Ceremony
Because Sunday is the day of the Lord’s Resurrection, it is the preferred day for Baptism. At St. Bernard’s Catholic Church Baptisms generally take place immediately after the Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) Mass that your family prefers. There are certain Sundays on which it is difficult to celebrate Baptism because of the length of the Mass (on Palm Sunday, for example) or because our priests have other obligations – but a Baptism can be scheduled on almost any weekend of the year.
It is customary (but not obligatory) that the child to be baptized wears white garments for the ceremony. Everything else required for the ceremony is supplied by the parish.
Everyone is welcome to attend the Mass and the Baptism. If you have non-catholic relatives or friends who would prefer not to attend the Mass, they are most welcome to come after Mass for the Baptism.