Following careful thought and preparation you bring your baby to church to ask for Baptism. It is a public sign of your own faith and trust in God's Love. The ceremonies of Baptism speak powerfully of this love and as you follow the service by joining in the prayers and responses you are drawn deeper into God's Love.
Welcoming - "When two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them."
The ceremony begins with a warm welcome to you and your family from the priest on behalf of the Christian community - the Church. He asks what name you have given your baby and whether you accept the responsiblity of bringing up your child in the practice of the faith. Then with you, the parents and godparents, he greets your baby with the sign of the cross. You trace the cross on the forehead of your baby as a sign that this is a child of Christ.
In the Gospel Jesus speaks of the new life which baptism brings; and the Priest may expand on this with a short talk. Prayers are then offered for your baby, for you and for your family. You may make a selection or write them for yourselves. Finally, the prayers of the saints in heaven are asked for so that the Baptism becomes a gathering of the whole family of the Church.
Washing - "Baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Water is the symbol of life: for without water there will be no life. Water also makes us clean. Baptism signifies the new life and the cleansing from sin won for us when Jesus rose from the dead.
To prepare for the baptism itself the priest prays that your baby may be delivered from every evil and this prayer is reinforced by the anointing with Oil of Baptism as a sign of Christ's strengthening power. The water is blessed and the minister then asks you to renew the vows which were made for you at your own baptism, as well as reminding you of your duty to bring up your child as a good Christian.
The minister then pours the baptismal water over your child's forehead three times saying,
"N, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Worshipping - "Unless a person is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
Your baby is now a Christian. Following an ancient custom your baby is anointed with Oil of Chrism. "Christ" means "anointed one" - for Jesus was given a special work to do. He suffered, died and rose again in order to unite us to his Heavenly Father. Your baby has the special work of living as a member of Christ's body - the Church. in this he or she will be helped by celebrating the other sacraments and, in particular, will take part in the Eucharist. The offering of thanks and praise to the Father which begins at Mass is the beginning of an eternal life of joy and total happiness.
Witnessing - "You are the light of the world... Your light must shine so that everyone will give the praise to your Father in heaven."
Your baby has been given the Spirit of Christ and so can reveal this life in the world. As a sign of this power to witness the Christ a white garment is wrapped around your baby to show that he or she is a new creation clothed in Christ. Finally, a member of the family, usually the father or godparent, is given a candle to light from the paschal candle. This symbolises the light of Christ which will shine on and through your child for life.
The ceremony is now over and the Church sends you on your future life together as a family. Everyone prays together the prayer Christ taught us - the Our Father. This is followed by special prayers for each parent and all who have joined in this joyful welcoming of a new Christian into the world.
Read about the Symbols of Baptism
This material is an excerpt from "Your Baby's Baptism", published by Majellan Publications.