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The Catholic Baptism ceremony for infants is the very picture of innocence and beauty. The ceremony is the same for adults, except that the Godparents of a baby hold the child while the Godparents of an adult or older child stand in witness to the Baptism and the candidate holds his or her head over the Baptismal font. The prayers all remain the same.
Baptism is the first Catholic sacrament and the most necessary for gaining Heaven. One must be baptized in order to receive the other sacraments which is why Baptism is first.
It is so important to do an emergency Baptism as quickly as possible if there is someone in danger of death; baby or adult, family or friend, stranger or acquaintance.
All you need is natural water and one sentence.
This means any water; but only water and as clean as you can get it. Water from the tap, a puddle, creek are fine.
Here are the words from Baltimore Catechism No. 1, page 4 - The BC is an awesome place to start since adults might be using this booklet to prepare for Baptism:
Here are some notes from TAN's old Is It a Saint's Name, 1948:
Usually Baptism should only be administered by a priest. It is important to keep Baptismal records and using the ordinary channels through the parish priest is the best way to make certain. (Let your pastor know of any emergency baptism.)
If an infant is in danger of death, and a priest is not readily available, a lay-person can and should baptize. If possible find a sponsor to be a witness. Parents may baptize, but if a doctor or nurse are available it is preferred that they perform the baptism.
Natural water suffices. Most hospitals have a glass of water nearby or a sink.
The water must flow on the child's head. Every baby born prematurely, every miscarriage, no matter at what stage of pregnancy, should be baptized. (This is so important to know. I kept this info in my birth kit for our doctors and midwives.)
If it is not certain that life is present, Baptism is given conditionally using the intention or words "If you are living I baptize thee, etc." Water is to be poured on the head or if this is not possible, upon any recognizable human part.
Conditional Baptism for those who are older is the same
"If you are living I baptize thee..."
Then add the same Baptismal words as above:
"I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
TAN's old Is It a Saint's Name, 1948 has a wonderful explanation of why to use the name of a saint for a new Catholic in Baptism. The book has two lists of alphabetical names of saints divided into one for girls and one for boys. Several variations of most names are given. There are great guidelines for not giving a name that you might regret.
It also gives a wonderful Catholic Baptism ceremony explanation and script. See more below.
The Baptism ceremony is in the priest's prayer book, but it's nice to know ahead of time what to expect. An adult candidate for Baptism will know what to do from his preparation classes. Baby just goes along with the flow. The rest of us might not know what will happen. The Godparents are the ones who will have to do or say the baptismal responses. Father explains everything as he goes, he even says what the sponsors will say for them to repeat the same.
Parents, Godparents, family and friends meet in the vestibule at church and the ceremony begins there since the first ceremony "brings the candidate into the church".
At first, Father will take the information from the parents, sponsors, or candidate about the baptismal name to be used along with the date and place of birth, address, and parents' names and address.
The Godparents (sponsors) then hold the baby through the Baptism ceremony and Father recites the prayers for entering the Church and for exorcising the candidate. Father will prompt the sponsors for their answers, or sometime the parish will have a card or booklet that the sponsors can read.
During the ceremony Father will put a touch of salt on the baby's tongue and will anoint several places with the holy oils so it is important to be able to get the outfit open at the back of the neck at one point. If the girl has a bonnet because of being in church or the boy in winter has a hat or hood, there's this moment that can be a trick to manage. Hoods and blankets can be a handful. Simply ask for help if it is too much. Some churches can be super cold and babies can be hard to keep warm.
Then all present join to make a profession of faith in the Apostles' Creed and the Our Father. Then the sponsors answer for the candidate before the actual Baptism where Father will say the words and pour the water.
NB: I remember when one good priest made sure to caution the sponsors to say, "I do." not just "I will." as in some booklets.
While one sponsor holds the child and the other places his hand on it, the priest takes baptismal water and pours it three times in the form of a cross, on the child's head, saying at the same time:
"N., I baptize thee, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
The priest anoints the child with Holy Chrism, as though sealing the baptism. He then places a white cloth, symbolic of the purity of life which should follow. A lighted candle is given the sponsors to hold while the final prayer is recited. The ceremony is concluded with the priest saying to the baptized:
"N., go in peace, and the Lord be with you. Amen."
It is so beautiful when the priest takes the parents and baby to Our Lady's altar and has them offer their child to Our Lady. Be sure to request it of Father before the ceremony so he can have the prayers ready.
At the end it is customary to make an offering, or a stipend. The amount is determined by diocesan statute or local custom. Be generous when you can.
Teaching about Baptism can be easy and sweet with our free printable coloring pages. Use them as greetings or presents from your little ones, too.
See the emergency Baptism directions above if there is any danger that baby is seriously ill, it is super easy to memorize the words, especially if you already know how to make the sign of the cross. Pray that nothing happens before baby is Baptized at church. Let your pastor know when baby is nearly due and be sure to call him promptly once baby is born.
First in order of time and while you are expecting baby's arrival is to choose good Catholics to be your child's Godparents. If you die, they will be the ones who have the responsibility to help raise your children as faithful Catholics. Grandparents and other relatives are usually wonderful Godparents as are close friends who are living the Faith.
Mom and Dad should ask the Godparents early enough so that they know the due date and can make the normal arrangements to be at your parish. If they live a great distance, they will need to be able to plan their travels or you will need another couple to proxy for them.
If you are the one being asked to be a Godparent, be sure that you're prepared for the responsibility that might fall on your shoulders. Are you prepared to provide this child's Catholic education? Ask your pastor what the obligations are.
Once baby is born, call the priest so as to arrange for the Baptism. Try to have the Baptism as soon as possible, one to fourteen days if Father can make the arrangements. Many saints were baptized on the same day as their birth. Old books are prudent in advising not to wait longer than a week or a month.
Baptism parties? Keep them simple. The important thing is to have the child baptized as soon as possible and to allow the mother rest. Baby's Baptism first here though. Mother does not need to be present and the family can have a party later.
When Baby is due any day, brothers and sisters love to learn about the upcoming Baptism. If you have other children, they want to be ready for the event, too. Older children have learned much about the Catholic sacraments when they study about the sacraments in their catechism or religion class, yet when "their" baby is getting baptized the sacraments come alive! They own the joy themselves.
The time to prepare these treasures is before Baby's due date. The first few days around a birth are so busy. You want to have the Baptism as soon as possible, so print what you want your children to use ahead of time and keep it in a good place (like Mom's dresser) for the Baptismal day. Even encourage them to do their projects ahead of time, too. Build the joy ahead of this blessed event.
Every week keep the children's Sunday clothes handy for the possible extra trip to church, just like you keep their other clothes ready for the possibility that they will have to go to Grandma's or a friend's house for the birth and leave from there for the Baptism.
With adults the preparation is one of education. Read here to prepare for an adult baptism, as well as older children, is on our Adult Catholic Baptism page. The parish and priest usually handle most of the Baptism ceremony so there's little for you to do on that day.
The ceremony is usually the same as for infants, yet your sponsors do not carry you. :-)
Welcome to the Catholic Faith!
You will like these Baptism and other Catholic Sacraments pages here:
Use printables in your Roman Catholic catechism class, Faith formation, or Sunday school lesson.