TheBaptism of Your Child - A Celebration of New Life Saint Peter's Parish
When parents experience the birth of their new child, it is normal for them to want their family and friends to join in the celebration of new life. Many also want the Christian Community to share their joy and so they automatically think about Baptism.
The Christian Community shares this view and wishes to welcome the children of its members into membership in the church. This membership, it is hoped, will give the child the chance to come to know the Lord and live a life based on wholesome Gospel values.
Sacrament of Initiation
Baptism is a Sacrament of Initiation. Along with Confirmation and Eucharist, this Sacrament integrates a person into the community of the Church.
Baptism is the first Sacrament of Initiation which a Christian receives. In the time of the Apostles and early years of the church, baptism was administered only to adults. An adult who had converted to Christian faith and received instruction was taken to a river or lake for this celebration. In the presence of the bishop, the deacons would take the candidate for baptism into the water and immerse them. This was a sign of drowning; the convert was thus symbolizing that he/she was dying to the old way of life, and rising out of the water to a new way of life. It is in this way that we understand the scriptural quotation that in baptism we "entered into the tomb with Christ".
Upon emerging from the waters, the candidate then came forward and professed his/her faith in the presence of the bishop and was anointed by the bishop and priests.
As the practice of baptism grew in the early church, the tradition of immersion in water came to be replaced with the pouring of water over the baptized. Sometimes in emergencies, where there were large groups to be baptized, water was sprinkled over the candidates for baptism. For practical and cultural reasons, baptism is now most commonly celebrated by pouring water over the head of the baptized.
As time went on the enthusiasm for conversion to Christianity grew and parents began to present their children for baptism as well. Because the children, especially infants, were not marking a conversion and could not speak for themselves, they were baptized under the sponsorship of their parents, guardians and the Christian community itself. As the practice of infant baptism spread, a special sacrament emerged to affirm or confirm the actions taken under sponsorship at childhood. This sacrament came to be known as Confirmation.
Why We Baptize Children in the Catholic Church
We still baptize infants and children in the Catholic Church for the same reason that existed in the early Church. It is our enthusiasm for our faith. It is because we believe that the teaching of Jesus Christ is our source for good and wholesome living, our chance for sanctity and fulfillment; that at the time of birth, parents and the whole Christian community rejoice in the opportunity to bring a new person into contact with their creator through their practice of the Catholic faith. And so parents, godparents and the whole Christian community baptize the child under their sponsorship, promising to teach him/her to love God and their neighbor and to train them in the practice of the faith.
The Practice of the Faith
Every Catholic knows that the practice of the faith means the celebration of the sacraments as prescribed by the leaders of the Church. This means regular prayer and especially participation in the celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays.
Because our religion involves a personal relationship with God, we are not authorized to enter into judgment upon one another. We recognize that this personal relationship is unique for each member of the Church and therefore avoid external criteria for determining the correctness of a baptism. Baptism is therefore a choice based upon the parents unique individual experience of faith.
It is usually assumed that parents who present their children for baptism are acting out of good faith and in good will because they want their child to have the opportunity to learn about God and experience His presence in the Church community. It is for this reason that the baptism of every child is a cause of celebration for the whole parish community. Baptism is the sacrament of "entrance" into, not only the Roman Catholic Church, but more importantly, the local parish community. For this reason it is assumed that families are already members of the parish community, if not fully active, registered members, then at least members due to geographical proximity. If this is not the case you will be encouraged to contact the Roman Catholic Church in your area.
Significance of Sponsorship
-Religious Education Classes
Sometimes in our modern impersonal society, we forget the communal dimension of the celebration of sacraments, perhaps especially in baptism. When people are baptized as infants or children, the inter play of the role of parents, godparents and parish helps us to understand the significance of this communal dimension.
Parents - The child's parents are the centerpiece of the sponsorship. They are the ones who are the "first teachers or witnesses" of their child in the ways of the faith. Baptism is their choice for their child and it reflects their hopes and their dreams for him/her.
Godparents - Parents are not alone in rejoicing over the Baptism. They choose sponsors, commonly called "godparents". The godparents are chosen by the parents because they represent their family and friends, and also represent the Christian community. Canon Law states that each child presented for baptism must have at least one sponsor who is a fully initiated Roman Catholic over the age of 16. Non-catholic godparents may be chosen in addition to this and they have a role as "witness" to the celebration.
The Parish - The Parish is also part of the sponsorship. Within the parish are found the pastors, ministers and catechists who will assist the parents in helping the young person to learn about God and the potential fulfillment as a human and spiritual person, which is the purpose of the Church.
Baptismal Promises as Pledge of Sponsorship
During the baptismal celebration, parents, godparents and all present renounce Satan and profess the faith. This part of the ceremony is at the very heart of the goal of initiation.
Renunciation of Satan represents our renunciation of evil and all the forces which lead to our destruction. The presence of evil in our world is so obvious, but our renunciation of evil is a commitment to search for goodness in our lives and in our world.
Since we are acting on behalf of the child at baptism, we wish to renounce the self-destruction of sin and evil and we profess our faith in the traditional words of the Apostles' Creed, which are our words of confidence in our Christian faith.
Parents who wish to arrange to have their child baptized should call the Parish Office at least one month prior to their preferred date. Preparation for the sacrament of baptism consists of a home visit by members of the baptismal team as well as a session here at the church.