Because water is essential to all life, the water of baptism symbolises the life-giving grace that sustains those who have become children of God.
Baptism is the first sacrament. It incorporates us into the Church and through it we are ‘reborn’ as daughters and sons of God.
Baptism is performed by the pouring of water on the head (or immersion) and the words ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.
Parents who ask to have their children baptised accept the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith and bringing them up to keep God’s commandments.
Water is the central symbol of baptism.
Oil is used twice in the ceremony. Before the baptism, the child’s breast is anointed with the Oil of Catechumens, as a sign of healing and strengthening. Afterwards, the crown of the head is anointed with perfumed Chrism, as a symbol of joy and thanksgiving.
The white garment with which the newly baptised is then clothed symbolises their new life in Christ and is “the outward sign of Christian dignity”.
A baptismal candle is lit from the paschal candle and presented to the new member as a sign of the light of Christ.
When and where?
Baptism is about being made a part of the community of faith; it is not a private family occasion. Therefore, baptisms are normally conducted during Sunday Mass or with several other families at another time on Sunday in the parish church.
Some parishes do not hold baptisms during Lent which is a time of penance and preparation for the sacraments.
Parents sometimes want their baby to be baptised in a school chapel or other place which has some meaning to them as individuals, but that is not appropriate as it is the local parish community that welcomes new members and provides the sense of belonging for the children.
A godparent must be at least 16 years old, have received First Holy Communion and been Confirmed, and needs to live a life of faith which will be an example and support to their godchild.
You need to contact your local parish to make enquiries about having your child baptised. Most parishes conduct preparation sessions for parents and Godparents before the baptism is scheduled.
Catholic baptism of an adult (Link to RCIA)
What if I am not Catholic but my child’s father/mother is?
For sensible pastoral reasons, a child needs at least one Catholic parent to be baptised in a Catholic Church.
Who can be baptised in the Catholic Church?
Any child with a parent who has been baptised Catholic is able to be baptised in the Catholic Church.
Can you be baptised more than once?
Baptism into the Christian faith occurs only once.
I am no longer in communication with my child’s mother/father – do I need to get their permission to have our child baptised?
You need to discuss your situation with your local parish.
What if I am not married – am I still able to get my child baptised?
Of course! Baptism is about the child, not the parent’s circumstances. The Church’s hope is that parents are presenting their child with a desire to share their faith in God and to connect with the Church community. The Church focuses on the child, as well as the responsibilities of those who have guardianship of the child.
When should I have my child baptised?
You can have your baby or child baptised at any age. Your local parish will be able to assist you with any questions you have.
My child is no longer a baby – can they still be baptised?
Baptism can occur at any age, although preparation for this varies depending on your child’s age. Your parish will be able to assist you with this process.
What does it mean to have your child ‘baptised’?
Having your child baptised means that they are incorporated into the Body of Christ and have begun the process of initiation which will be completed through the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation. Within the Baptism ritual, parents promise to support and nurture their child’s Christian life.
What is the difference between Baptism and Christening?
There is no difference between Baptism and Christening. The Catholic Church recognises the first sacrament of initiation to be Baptism, which comes from a Greek word used in Scripture meaning to ‘plunge’ or immerse. ‘Christening’ is derived from Middle English and means to make Christian and is also connected with the term “Christ” which means “anointed one”. Therefore it is also connected to the “Chrismation” – or “anointing” – of the baptismal ceremony.
How do I choose a godparent and what do they do?
A godparent is to be 16 years or older and fully initiated into the Catholic Church, i.e. one who has been baptised, celebrated First Communion and been Confirmed. One godparent needs to be Catholic, although practising individuals of other Christian traditions are welcome to be witnesses. Non-Christians are unable to be witnesses.
There is no legal obligation as a godparent. It is a ministry of love and a privilege to be invited. Godparents are chosen with the hope that they practise their faith regularly, and will be a positive spiritual guide and good moral mentor for the baptised child.
Why might there be several families celebrating Baptism at the same time?
Baptism is a communal celebration. It is not a private family occasion. Therefore, Baptisms might be celebrated with several other families at another time in the parish church.