The Sacrament of Baptism

Who are the ordinary ministers of Baptism?

The ordinary ministers of Baptism are bishops, priests and deacons. But in danger of death any member of the Church (or even any person who has the requisite intention) should baptize. Later, a child who survives should be taken to the parish church to be received solemnly into the Catholic community.

How does one baptize in case of emergency? Baptism is celebrated by the minister pouring water over the head of the one being baptized and saying the at the same time: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

What is the role of parents in the baptism of children? The parents accept the responsibility of training the child in the practice of the faith and of bringing the child up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us by loving God and our neighbour. This obligation is emphasized in the celebration of Baptism during which parents publicly ask that their child is baptized; they sign their child with the sign of the cross; they renounce Satan and make their profession of faith; they hold the lighted candle; and they are blessed with the special prayers for mothers and fathers.

What is the role of the Godparent? In the baptism of infants the godparents’ role is secondary. But, if necessary, they should be ready to help in the spiritual education of their godchild. The godparent should be: a) sufficiently mature (min age 16) and b) a member of the Catholic Church, fully initiated in the Church (by Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist). A baptized member of a non-Catholic Church may act as a witness (but not godparent or sponsor) alongside the godparent.

How soon should children be baptized after birth? A lot sooner than has become customary! If the child is in danger of death, he or she should be baptized immediately. Otherwise, the baptism should - as far as possible - be celebrated within the first two months.

Must a child be given a Saint’s name? The Church requires that priests and parents “take care that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment” (Canon 855). In effect it is difficult to imagine how any priest could fullfil the requirements of that law. Many children are give more than one forename; it’s reasonable therefore to expect parents to ensure that at least one is Christian.

Do all parents have a right to have their child baptized? No. Canon Law (Canon 868) states that “For a child to be baptized lawfully it is required there is a well-founded hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic religion.”