Baptism at St. Mary's
Deacon George Tierney
Director of Baptismal Preparation
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Sacrament of Baptism
"Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification. Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist constitute the 'sacraments of initiation' by which a believer receives the remission of original and personal sin, begins a new life in Christ and the Holy Spirit, and is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ. The rite of Baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water, or pouring water on the head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 977, 1213,1275, 1278).
The Sacraments of Christian Initiation lay the foundation for the entire Christian life, and the first of these is Holy Baptism, which is the gateway to the life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the life of grace. Through Baptism we are freed from all sin and born again of water and the Holy Spirit as children of God. Through Baptism we are made a new creation, and we become members of Christ and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Greek word baptizein means to plunge or to immerse, and whether we are literally immersed in water or the water is poured upon us, the water symbolizes the burial with Christ of the catechumen. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 5:3-4).
The Lord Jesus Himself made Baptism necessary for salvation (cf. John 3:5), and from the beginning the Church faithfully followed Our Lord's Great Commission to teach His Gospel to all nations and baptize all who believe (cf. Matthew 28:16-20). In the first years of the Church's life, most of those who were baptized were adults, but when the Gospel began to be accepted by great numbers of people, even infants and children were baptized. Infant baptism, which is an immemorial tradition of the Church, shows forth the absolutely free and unmerited grace of God leading to salvation, but the danger also exists that Christians will forget that Baptism is the sacrament of faith.
But faith needs the community of believers, and it is only within the living faith of the Church that each of the faithful can come to believe. That is why infants and children can only be baptized when their parents and godparents (sacramental sponsors) give evidence of genuine Christian belief and practice.
The renewal of Christian faith and life for which we all long can be found in fidelity to the grace of our Baptism, when we were born again as a new creation.