Questions and answers: Chapter 21: Baptism
What is Baptism? The Sacrament of rebirth through water in the word. (CCC1213)
How is Baptism celebrated? Normally, at the Easter Vigil. The catechumens have gone through a process: the Word of God proclaimed, the Gospel being accepted, conversion taking place, faith being professed, Baptism being received, the Spirit being poured out (Confirmation), and the Eucharist being received.
What does Jesus Christ accomplish in us through Baptism?
a. He removes original sin and all personal sins. Rom 6:14
b. He gives us a new life, the divine life (in the Trinity), and makes us adopted children of God. He also gives us powers (faith, hope, love) to act as children of God. 1 Jn 3:1
c. He unites us to himself and to the members of his Mystical Body (Eph 4:4-6). He enables us to pray in union with Him to the Father and to make our sufferings of value to the entire Church. (Col 1:24)
d. He joins us to the Holy Spirit in a close relationship (1 Cor 3:16-17).
e. He gives us a share in his priesthood so we can participate in the Mass, unite our prayers and sufferings with His, and obtain the right to receive other sacraments.
Is Baptism the only way of receiving the divine life of sanctifying grace for the first time? It is the normal way, but Jesus in his mercy may share the divine life to others who through no fault of their own cannot receive Baptism. (see: "Why Do Catholics Believe that Only Catholics can be Saved?"). One who has sorrow for sins out of love of God and sincerely desires Baptism, and others who do not know the necessity of Baptism but who have sorrow for sins and desire to do the will of God may receive Baptism by desire. Unbaptized persons who give their lives for their belief in God receive Baptism by blood.
Who can be baptized? Only an unbaptized person can receive the sacrament of Baptism.
Can children be baptized? From its beginning the Church has allowed parents or guardians to profess their children's faith and commitment so that they may receive baptism. (see: "Why Do Catholics Baptize Infants?")
What is the sign used in Baptism? Water by pouring or immersion along with the Trinitarian words: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
a. Water is used for cleansing.
b. Water is also life-giving. Immersion in water symbolizes the passage from death to life.
Why are there “sponsors” or “godparents” for Baptism? Sponsors or godparents take on the primary responsibility (along with the rest of the community) to assist the baptized to continue growing in the life of faith.
Who administers the sacrament of Baptism? Ordinarily a priest or deacon. In emergencies any baptized or unbaptized person may perform the baptism using water, the proper words, and having the sincere intention.
What are the baptismal promises? First, to reject Satan and to renounce the works of sin. Second, to affirm belief in the basic creed of the Church:
a. Belief in God, the Father Almighty, creator or heaven and earth.
b. Belief in Jesus Christ, his only Son, Our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.
c. Belief in the Holy Spirit, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
What happens to unbaptized infants? Neither the Bible nor tradition gives a solution to this question. We have to leave the answer to the mercy and justice of God. (See: Limbo).
Why does it sometimes happen that a person who had been baptized a Protestant is baptized again when becoming a Catholic? This only happens when a record of previous baptism cannot be produced. In this case, a provisional baptism is performed in case there was no previous baptism. The Catholic Church recognizes baptisms in Protestant Churches as long as water and the Trinitarian words were used. Normally, former Protestants are not baptized but make a profession of faith in the Catholic Church after receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Baptism: Ceremony at the Easter Vigil: see Today's Missal--Holy Week
Prayer: Spontaneous Prayer