Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Luke 24:47
Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns man back toward God. We are freed from sin and reborn as children of God; we become members of Christ’s Body, and are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the Word.”
Of babies and pre-school children.
As Catholics we experience ourselves as the Body of Christ, as branches of Christ the True Vine, as part of one another. We baptize our children even in their infancy so that they may share in that life of faith. We want them from the beginning to have a share in the faith of their family and of their wider family, the parish.
Because our parish is so widespread we are flexible as we assist with preparation.From time to time we gather two or three or more families together to share faith and deepen their bonds with the parish. These meetings are more in the nature of prayer and reflection than education or study. They are a welcome preparation each time a baptism is coming up in the family, not just “we did that before”. They are held in homes in a particular area within the parish and at times that suit the participating families.
At other times preparation is done with an individual family – the priest or another visits the home, or the family visit the priest.
In each of those approaches prayerful, reflective material is given to the families
We encourage families, as they prepare for their own celebration, to come and come and share in a Baptism that is being celebrated some weeks before their own. (Ideally Baptisms are celebrated at the Parish Mass on Sundays).
Preparation, no matter how it is made, is for the strengthening and deepening of the faith and commitment of the family so that the new life of Baptism is nourished and grows.
It has always been expected that Sponsors/God Parents are fully committed and fully alive in the faith. At this time, when the faith hasn’t taken root in so many of the parents’ generation the choice of God Parents is more important than ever. Two God Parents, a god mother and a god father is the norm, one of whom must be a committed Catholic, a role model and ongoing support.
When are Baptisms celebrated?
Many Parishes nowadays celebrate infant baptisms only on Sunday, and often only during the parish Mass. Certainly an ideal setting, recommended by the Church and bringing out clearly that it is about initiation into the worshipping community and that it is leading towards becoming a Eucharistic member of the community. Infant Baptism in such parishes comes to be similar to our traditional practice for the other Sacraments – Reconciliation, Holy Communion, Confirmation.
While pointing out the merits of this approach, and while pleased when two or three are happy to have a combined Baptism – it does save time for me – I always fall in with the time – weekday or Sunday – that best suits each family. My immediate reason for this is that I’m too old to remember people after just a group event. My deeper reason is my faith that God can do great things through the heightening of family bonds. And the ground of that faith of mine is my conviction that there never was a more glorious time to be a fully committed Catholic than right now. Praise God.
Of those who are no longer infants – “Children of Catechetical Age”
It may not be so well known that, even in our New Zealand climate, many adults join the Church each year. The process of their preparation is called the Catechumenate and is also called the RCIA – the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The process of preparing school-age children for Baptism is called the RCIC – the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children.
In many parishes the process of RCIA and RCIC is ticking over each year. Obviously there is much more to be worked through for the Adults than for the Children. In both cases there is learning, but more importantly there is the deepening of appreciation of and a hunger for God, a falling in love with Jesus and with his Body, the Catholic community.
In many of our Catholic schools, too, RCIC is up and running – understandably so, since many of our school students are from families with little or no parish connection. Young hearts come to know Jesus and ask for Baptism. In these cases it is important that some parish connection be found from the start, and that from the start the families also be involved in the RCIC process and in the local parish. Schools are transient communities but parishes are permanent and lifelong ones. Baptisms in these cases might at times be celebrated in the school in the midst of their peers – provided the parish connection is well and truly established.
Sponsors/God parents are most important in the school situation. There is obviously a need for role models from within the school and similarly ones who are truly role models from within the parish.