Baptism is the first of seven sacraments and the way in which a person becomes a member of the Catholic Church.
Who can receive a Catholic baptism?
Anyone who has not already been baptized can receive the sacrament of Baptism in the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is able to be baptized,” (paragraph 1246). Baptism leaves an indelible (permanent) mark on the soul and there is no way nor any reason that one could be re-baptized.
There are no age restrictions for baptism; you cannot be too old or too young to be baptized.
Who can perform a Catholic baptism?
Anyone can perform a baptism, however this is typically done only in extreme cases in which someone’s life is in danger. The Catholic Church has ordinary ministers for sacraments and those are bishops, priests, and sometimes deacons. An ordinary minister is one who has been entrusted with the authority to perform the sacrament although the responsibility for performing a sacrament can usually be delegated. For example, a bishop is the ordinary minister for Confirmation, but can give permission to a priest to do a Confirmation; a priest does not have the authority to do a confirmation without the permission of his bishop. However, priests do have the authority to do baptisms without the permission of the bishop and sometimes delegate the responsibility to a deacon if one is available.
Most baptisms are done by a priest or deacon when the person is an infant, but there are extreme cases when even an unbaptized person can baptize someone. All that is required is “the will to do what the Church does when she baptizes, and to apply the Trinitarian Baptismal formula.” If this is done it is usaully because someone is lying on his/her deathbed and they truly desire to become Christian. How is this type of Baptism valid you ask? Well, the Church believes in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation (1 Timothy 2:4, John 3:5).
Can someone be baptized twice?
Baptizing someone twice is not necessary so long as the person was baptized using the Trinitarian formula described above. Some churches do not use the Trinitarian formula and therefore their baptisms are not valid and one would need to baptized again. It is not a sin to be baptized twice, but one need not be baptized twice in most cases.
Does the Catholic Church accept baptisms from another church?
Yes, the Catholic Church recognizes any baptism that uses water and in which the baptized was baptized was the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Some churches do not use the trinitarian formula for baptism and thus their baptisms are not valid.
Why are children baptized?
Children receive baptism primarily to remove original sin, but can serve as a great family tradition in which to inculturate one’s child into the faith of the family. Infant baptism has been debated for centuries. First, let us appeal to the Bible. John 3:5 says, “Jesus answered, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.'” Note that Jesus says “no one” can enter heaven in that passage. In the spirit of brevity here is the short answer straight from the Catechism:
“The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole “households” received baptism, infants may also have been baptized,” (Acts 16:15,33; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16).
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1252)
What does the Grace of Baptism accomplish?
Catholic Baptism does five things specifically.
- It forgives all sins that may have been committed prior to a person’s baptism including original sin, mortal sins, and venial sins, and it relieves the punishment for those sins.
- It makes the newly baptized person “a new creature.”
- It turns the person into a newly adopted son of God and a member of Christ. Baptism incorporates one into the Church which is the body of Christ.
- Baptism leaves and indelible spiritual mark (character) of belonging to Christ on the soul. Nothing you can do will take away this mark even if you sin a million times. Those sins may not grant you salvation, but you will always carry the mark of a Christian on your soul, therefore making re-baptism impossible.
- It brings someone into the flock of the faithful and brings them to share in the royal priesthood of Christ (1 Pet. 2:9-10). Catholic baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers and it also brings about the sacramental bond of the unity of Christians. Paragraph 1271 of the Catechism says it best:
Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church. Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn.”
Can someone receive the Grace of Baptism without being baptized?
Yes, those who die for their faith but were never baptized receive the grace of baptism by blood. This is often called martyrdom – being killed for your faith and never, not even for a second, compromising it. Also, those truly seeking baptism, but are unable to receive it due to extenuating circumstances can receive it by desire. If the person has an explicit desire for baptism and is repentant of their sins then they will be “baptized.”
What is the form and matter of Baptism?
The form of a sacrament is the words that are said when performing or receiving the sacrament. In the case of Baptism this would be, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The matter of a sacrament is the physical signs that are present or used such as water and oil in the case of baptism.
What is the role of Godparents?
Godparents for Catholic Baptism are like sponsors for Confirmation. However, they take on a different role since usually only children have godparents for baptism. Their role is to take over or assist in the faith development of the person being baptized in the event that his/her parents cannot or if they neglect the child. This fulfills the baptismal promise of being raised in the Catholic faith.