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Baptism - Things to Know


Advice for parents on names, godparents, what to wear, baptismal certificates, and more.


Picking a Christian name

Ever wonder how the Catholic kids always ended up with names like Theodora or Juan?

The child is given the name of a saint at Baptism because it symbolizes newness of life in Christ and incorporation into the Christian community. The saint whose name is taken at Baptism becomes a heavenly patron who exercises special lifelong care over the baptized person.

Canon 853 of the new Code reminds parents and godparents that the name of the new Christian should not be alien to a Christian sense (ne imponatur nomen a sensu cristiano alieno). Pastors are advised to be vigilant on this matter.

While the Church no longer requires you to name your baby after a canonized saint, you might want to do so anyway. For one thing, Saints’ names are enduring for all time. Moreover, naming one’s child after a saint automatically provides a patron, an exemplar, and yet another special day to celebrate God's goodness and grace.

Furthermore, the Church does insist that you avoid any name that's clearly anti-Christian. It is advisable to avoid names of notorious men and women or strange names from movies, comics, etc. Thus, we should not choose names like "Lenin," "Marx" or "E.T.," etc.


Picking Godparents (the ninong and ninang)

"Aguroy!" (Oh dear), you had planned to ask your favorite uncle, the one who ditched Catholicism for another church, to be your child's ninong (godfather). Well, according to the Canon Law, he can't be the ninong, but may only act as a Christian witness if you find a practicing Catholic to act as ninang (godmother). And it doesn't matter how much you love her, forget about asking your best friend who became a Buddhist. She doesn't believe in Baptism. How is she going to wholeheartedly transmit Catholic faith and its practices to the child?

As much as possible, only Catholics who have received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation , Penance and Holy Eucharist , and who are mature enough to undertake this responsibility, should be chosen as godparents for Baptism. They should also know their faith and live up to the duties of their religion

The following, therefore, may not act as godparents:

  • non-Catholics or Catholics who have apostatized (abandoned the Catholic religion);
  • criminals, or persons with evil reputation in the community;
  • the parents of the infant or, in the case of adults, the wife, husband or children of the person to be baptized;

The question is sometimes asked why the Church forbids non-Catholics from acting as godparents of Catholic children. The answer is easily deduced from the duties of godparents: if such godparents have the obligation of raising the godchild as a Catholic, should there be a default of the natural parents, how can they do so unless they themselves are Catholics?

The godparent must see to it that the godchild lives a Christian life congruous with Baptism, and faithfully fulfill the obligations intimately connected with it. Actually, Canon 873 specifies that only one godparent is sufficient: either a man or a woman or both. The usual practice is to have two; one ninong (godfather) and one ninang (godmother).


What is the proper garment for the baby (or adult) to wear for baptism?

Baptism ushers us into a new era. We no longer need to be slaves to sin. We put our allegiance with God and good (Romans 6 and Colossians 3:9). To symbolize this old/new theme, the newly baptized is dressed in a white garment during the ritual of Baptism. This represents "putting on Christ". Sometimes the Church provides a white robe or stole to be used during the ceremony and is kept afterwards to commemorate the occasion.

In the early Church, the newly initiated was expected to wear the white garment and keep it unsoiled for the 50 days of Easter. Today, in most cases, it has become a symbol that is present only for the duration of the ritual and it is then packed away with other family memorabilia. Among other things, the white garment symbolizes the Church's belief that Baptism sets us free from Original Sin.

If your family doesn't already have an heirloom christening gown, here are two other traditions to consider:

  • Fashioning baptismal robes out of the same cloth that was used to create the mother's wedding gown or train
  • Assigning godparents the traditional honor of providing the christening gown

Note: You'll be dressing your baby at home and will not have to undress the tyke for the rite, but do bring a towel and a change of clothes if you're opting for full immersion.

Keep the Baptismal Certificate

Don't lose the paperwork! You'll need that Baptismal Certificate for just about everything - First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, and "Dios mio, ayaw unta" (heaven forbid), Annulment. Add it to the pile of other important documents you have stashed in the family safe. No family safe? "Aguroy napud" (Uh-oh). You'd better get one or sign up for a safety deposit box at your local bank. Haul out the family Bible and record the baptismal date. If you don't already have this information recorded, you may as well note all the sacramental anniversary dates for everyone else in your family.

Please see our Church Wedding Requirements in this website. You will see that this certificate would be the first requirement for a church wedding.


Practical Tips As You Prepare for Your Child's Baptism

  • If your parish has a program to help prepare parents for the Baptism of their child, participate in the program early in the pregnancy. If not, contact the parish three or four months before the child's birth. Ask for a copy of the Baptism ceremony and prayerfully study its rich symbols and prayers.
  • Choose godparents who will be a real and long-lasting help in the Christian formation of your child. It would be helpful if they could participate in the Baptism preparation with you. They are meant to be more than "honorary" sponsors.
  • Track down the family christening dress and consider making or decorating the white baptismal garment used near the end of the ritual. You might also decorate the baptismal candle with baptismal symbols, using acrylic paints or nail polish. If there are other children in the family, they can help.
  • You might write a "Parents' Prayer" or "Parents' Wish" that includes your hopes and dreams for this new child. Check with the priest or parish leaders to see if there may be a time during or before the ceremony when you can pray or read it aloud. Or present it at a party afterwards.
  • Make the ceremony a community event. Invite relatives, friends and neighbors to participate in the Baptism liturgy. Some could serve as Scripture readers or musicians.
  • Keep the white garment, the candle, the prayers, photos and other symbols of the baptismal ceremony to share with your child in future years. These keepsakes can be brought out on the child's anniversary of Baptism or birthday and serve as powerful reminders of the ongoing importance of the event.