Baptism - Gate of the Church
What is Baptism?
Baptism is a sacrament of Christian initiation that gives our souls the new life of sanctifying grace by
which we become children of God, members of the church, and heirs of heaven. It is the first of the
not only in time (since most Catholics receive it as infants) but in priority, since the reception
of the other sacraments depends on it. For Catholics, the sacrament is not a mere formality; it is the
very mark of a Christian, because it brings us into new life in Christ.
The principal effects of baptism are:
- It takes away original sin and all actual sins, together with all the punishment due to them.
- It gives us the grace of rebirth and the infused virtues.
- It raises us to the dignity of adopted children of God.
- It incorporates us into Christ and His Church.
- It confers on us the baptismal character and the right to heaven.
To be baptized is to be given new birth and new life (John 3:5).
Symbolism of the Holy Water.
"Baptism of water"- is the ordinary means of Baptism, but there are two extraordinary means by which
the remission of sin and the attainment of eternal salvation are possible. Those who through no fault of
their own, have not received the sacrament of Baptism can be saved through what is called
Baptism of Blood
Baptism of Desire
As the Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood are extraordinary means, they do not excuse from the
obligation of making use of the ordinary means when available. For this reason, one who has received that
Baptism of Desire by an act of love or perfect contrition, is still bound to receive Baptism of Water if
he is aware of it. In the same way, an unbaptized person being martyred for the Christian faith or some
Christian virtue must be baptized by water if he survives.
Water is the obvious symbol that we associate with Baptism, representing life, death, cleansing and
growth. It is interesting that our initiation process begins with water just as the beginning of time
portrayed in the very first pages of the Bible. Consider, for example, the flood waters of Noah's day and
the saving waters of the Red Sea parted by Moses. Those waters of the Red Sea, even if they killed the
Egyptians, opened the way for the Israelites to pass from slavery to freedom, and later crossing one more
body of water (the river Jordan) to pass into the Promised Land.
In the New Testament, then, it is appropriate that John the Baptizer baptized in the River of Jordan,
symbolizing that the baptized were also to leave the slavery of sin for the freedom of a new Promised Land.
Jesus began his ministerial journey by being baptized in the Jordan, and that the Spirit was present
Water and Spirit are strong and important symbols of Baptism. To be baptized is to be plunged into
the waters and to open oneself to the Spirit of Jesus. To be baptized is to have the Spirit help us make
order out of the chaos of the sinful world into which we are born. To be baptized is to be welcomed into
the Church (the new promised land) and to be nourished there as we journey with each other and with Jesus
in his ministry.
How is Baptism administered?
In present day, Baptism is administered by pouring water on the forehead of the person to be baptized, saying while
pouring it: "(N.), I BAPTIZE YOU: IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT."
Three methods of Baptizing:
- Immersion - means plunging the candidate into water.
- Infusion - means pouring the water.
- Aspersion - means sprinkling the water.
All these three methods are valid, but our present practice is by immersion or infusion. This is
clearly stated in the new Code: "Baptism is to be conferred either by immersion or by pouring,
the prescriptions of the conference of bishops being observed."
Water must flow over the skin, so that not every sprinkling or pouring suffices for the Sacrament.
If the water just flows over the hair, the validity is doubtful. The normal procedure is to pour water
three times in the form of a cross over the head. In urgent cases, it is only necessary to pour the
If there is only one drop of water available, and the case is urgent, the water should be rubbed
over the person's forehead with the finger. This, of course, would be of doubtful validity. If the
person recovers, Baptism should be repeated conditionally.
Who Can be Baptized?
Any person who is not yet baptized can be baptized. That person is said to be the "subject" of Baptism.
Adults and Children with the Age of Reason:
A person who has reached the age of reason - normally around seven years of age - cannot be baptized
validly unless he has the intention to be baptized. An adult cannot be made a Christian against his will.
The main argument for the perennial practice of the Church regarding infant Baptism is the absolute
necessity of the Sacrament for entrance to heaven. If Baptism is necessary for
salvation, it must be administered to infants as well as to adults. If not, we would be guilty of
thinking that God had deprived infants of every means of salvation.
In the Catholic Church today, baptism is most commonly administered to infants. While some other
Christians strenuously object to infant baptism, believing that baptism requires assent on the part of
the person being baptized, the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and other mainline Protestants
also practice infant baptism, and there is evidence that it was practiced from the earliest days
of the Church.
Since baptism removes both the guilt and the punishment due to Original Sin, delaying baptism
until a child can understand the sacrament may put the child's salvation in danger, should he die
Who Is The Ordinary Minister Of Baptism?
The ordinary minister of Baptism is the bishop, the priest, pastor and the deacon. In case of necessity,
as in imminent danger of death, and no priest or deacon is available, anyone with the right intention
may and should administer Baptism.
Baptism which is administered by a priest and with all the ceremonies in the Rite of Baptism
is what we call Solemn Baptism