Catholic Baptism Explained
I found the following scripture passage very useful in trying to explain Catholic Baptism. They are words of Jesus recorded according to the Gospel of Matthew 22:37 and 39.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbour as yourself."
Through our Baptism, we are called to live a life in allegiance to God.
The information below is for Parents, God parents and carers preparing for their child’s baptism.
Does God Love your Child before they are being Baptised?
Yes of course. Once, I was talking about God’s love to my grade three scripture class at a public school. Little Zoey put her hand up and said, “Miss, I don’t think God loves me”. I asked her “Why do you say that Zoey?”. “ Because my parents have yet not taken me to church, and done that thing ... where they pour water over your head”.
I felt very sorry for 8-year old Zoey, as she thought God did not love her, because she was not baptised. I assured her, “God loves you Zoey, no matter what. God loved you from the moment you were a little baby in your mummy’s tummy.”
Not just children, but some adults too can have this misconception, that God would love them only after their Baptism.
I further explained to Zoey, that if her parents doesn’t take her to be baptised, that once she grows up, she could go on her own and talk to a priest about her baptism.
What happens at Baptism or what do we hope for our children through Catholic Baptism?
Parents might say, “We hope for eternal life for our children”.
Some parents are keen to baptise their children as soon as they are born, so that in case something happens, they know that their child will go to heaven.
Yet Catholic Baptism does not end with just the ritual. It is an invitation and an acceptance to a life long journey with God.
But how can Baptism prepare our children for eternal life or help them to live their lives in companionship with God?
This companionship with God is possible only through the child’s own parents, God parents, family members and the church community.
This is the very reason, that the Catholic church celebrates baptism as a church community.
The church is the body of Christ. We parents, God parents and members of the church are responsible to guide our children to live a life of faith.
Not only when they are newly baptised, but through their life’s journey, in happy times and sad times we should support our children. In times of sinful struggle, we should speak to them about God’s mercy, love and compassion.
What do we, Parents and God Parents Commit to, during a Catholic Baptism?
The priest asks many questions during the celebration. We say “Yes I do” on behalf of our child.
Pope Benedict the XVI explains in his homily that we say “YES” and commit to
- believe in the one and true God our creator
- we believe in Christ who shows us the true path to eternal life.
- we live in communion with the Catholic church; For example, to take responsibility to help the poor, the suffering ...
Further Pope Benedict explains that we say “No”
- to Satan and all its works
- to everything that destroys life, to false happiness; For example, seeking comfort in drugs, in illusions, in deceit, fraud, injustice.
- to false happiness we seek through irresponsible sexual enjoyment that makes us human beings as ‘things’, and no longer a people who deserves love and fidelity.
Above are a few commitments we make on behalf of our child during their baptism.
What is the meaning of the symbols and gestures that are used in Catholic Baptism?
- The Sign of the Cross sums up Jesus’ life - the ‘Way of Life’. The cross is the shield that will protect the baptised
- Water symbolises ‘Life’. In baptism we commit to a new life in Christ.
- Sacramental Oil is used for anointing. Oil is the symbol of strength, health and beauty. Pope Benedict explains that it is truly beautiful to live a life in communion with Christ.
- The white garment is an expression of the culture of beauty and the culture of a good life.
- The flame of the candle is an expression of the truth that shines out in the darkness and reminds us as to ‘who we are’, ‘where we come from’ and ‘where we must go’.
Parents, God parents and the community are responsible to remind their children of their baptismal commitment, as they grow.
Children learn to be good Christians mainly, by experiencing Christianity at "home", the "domestic church". Without the experience of faith, hope and commitment in their home, children find it difficult to understand their baptismal commitment towards the larger church.
Baptism begins with God's love and care revealed to us through Christ. It continues with us, the Church, living and enacting God's love and care through Christ to the world.
Return from Catholic Baptism to Catholic Sacraments and learn about other sacraments.