The Sacrament of Baptism

Baptism is the first sacrament received by Christians. Without it, reception of the others is not allowed (apart from matrimony, where dispensation is given for a non-Christian to marry a Catholic). In Ireland, most Catholics were baptised as infants.

When an adult is baptized, he or she receives the sacrament of baptism, the sacrament of confirmation and the sacrament of the Eucharist in the same Mass. A lot of parishes have experienced this at the Easter Vigil.

When it comes to the baptism of an infant, the child is usually presented for baptism by his or her parents. In some cases it could be a single parent or a guardian. There are a number of questions that can arise around baptisms. The names that are entered in the baptismal register are the child’s Christian names and the surname on their birth cert. The names of the parents on the birth cert are entered in the baptismal register. In relation to godparents — how many can there be, can there be two godmothers, or two godfathers, or a non-Catholic, or an older sibling of the infant being baptised among others. The answers are: there has to be at least one, there are usually two and there is space in the baptismal registers for two; if there is one, they should be a practising Catholic; if there are two there should be one godmother and one godfather and at least one if not both should be practising Catholics. If it is a sibling they should be confirmed and it is recommended they should be practising and over 16.

In the sacrament, the parents take on the responsibility of being the first and most important teachers of their child in the practice of the faith and promise to live that role. It is fundamental to the development of the faith of the child. Within the baptismal rite there are a number of prayers and blessings that highlight this. The godparents promise to help the parents in that role — the role of godparent is not just a ‘there at birthdays and Christmas and at big occasions and gift bearing’. Their role is to share their faith with their godchild. That is why they renew their own baptismal promises along with the parents stating what their Christian belief is and that they are willing to share that faith with the child they are standing with and for in the ceremony.

Included in the section leading up to the renewal of baptismal vows is the following directed at the parents and the godparents: If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin, profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. this is the faith in which this child is about to be baptised.” The last question posed to them before the child is actually baptised is “Is it your will that (name of child) should be baptised in the faith of the Church, which we have all professed with you?”

The declarations of faith made in the celebration of the sacrament are not just words to be said on the day but should be meant and lived by parents and godparentsin order to be witnesses to that faith for the child they bring forward for baptism. It is more than just a day out for the family and a reunion for some but the sacrament that links us as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.