We are always making new beginnings: a new job, a new home, a new year with all it's new year's resolutions, a new school, a new relationship, a new car, a new day! The list seems endless! Holy Baptism (or 'christening') is a new beginning because when we are baptised we become part of Christ's body, the Church, and we begin a life with God that continues throughout our lives.
A beginning often marks a turning point in our life. Baptism too is a turning point because our lives are turned around: away from everything that takes us away from God, embracing everything that leads us closer to God.
We want you to make the most of this important time and to share in everything that's happening. So here's an insight into the Baptism Service.
The priest greets everyone present and explains the significance of baptism to the parents. They are asked if they will accept their responsibilities. Then the priest speaks to the godparents and asks them too if they will accept the responsibilities asked of them.
If it has not already taken place, the child is then signed with the sign of the cross and anointed with the Oil of Catechumens. The celebrant says a prayer of blessing over the water, and then the parents and godparents renew the vows made at their own baptism.
The child is then baptised: water is poured over their head three times, ‘In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’
Several other things also occur which explain the meaning of baptism: the child is anointed with the Oil of Chrism, clothed in a white garment and given a lighted candle.
The service ends with prayers for the child and family, and a blessing
Baptism of a Child during Mass
If the Baptism takes place during Mass the parents and godparents are greeted at the beginning of the Mass and the child is signed with the cross anointed with the Oil of Catechumens.
The Baptismal Promises and the Baptism itself takes place after the homily (sermon)
There are so many things in our life that become 'ritualised': in other words we go through the motions, doing things without thinking about them, and many things that we do can simply become an empty gesture.
So, for instance, saying 'Good Morning' and smiling to the same people you pass every day can either be filled with meaning or it can be very superficial! It's so easy, too, for Baptism to become an empty gesture
But Holy Baptism should only be requested if we really want what it offers and if we really mean what we promise.
We are more than happy, of course, to baptise babies but it is necessary to meet with the parish priest before you make the final decision. Please come along to the Sunday Mass at 9.30 am and speak to the priest afterwards.
The Baptism of Adults takes place, after a period of preparation, at the Easter Vigil. This will be followed, as soon as possible, by the celebration of Confirmation by the Bishop during the Easter Season.
Children of catechetical age (ie 7 years or so) should be regular attenders at Mass and receive a period of teaching before they can be baptised. However, please get in touch if you would like to find out more about this!
What’s the difference between Baptism and Christening?
There isn’t any difference! They are the same thing – just different names.
What will Baptism mean for my child and family?
It’s a good question – because it will only mean anything to you if you put the promises you make into action. If you take the baptism of your child seriously it will mean that you will bring up your child as a Christian. This means taking part in the life of the church: bringing your child to church on a regular basis and attending Mass.
What are godparents?
There are lots of strange ideas about what godparents actually are! Godparents are baptised Christians who make promises on behalf of the child. They promise to help the parents to nurture the child in the Christian Faith.
How many godparents do I need?
There is no golden rule, but usually two but no more than four. Godparents must be at least 16 years of age.
Why do godparents need to have been baptised themselves?
Because they are making promises for your child that they have already had made for them, or made themselves. They are also representing the church community, so need to be a baptised member of it.
Is there a charge for Baptism?
No. Holy Baptism is freely given! You may, however, want to give a gift offering to the church in thanksgiving. You can talk to the priest about this. There will also be an opportunity for guests at the Baptism to give a donation if they wish.
What happens after Baptism?
That’s entirely up to you! The priest will baptise your child in good faith that you will keep the promises made on their behalf. That means bringing your child to church! We offer you a warm and sincere welcome!
The Sign of the Cross
We often mark things we own! In Baptism, when we are marked with the sign of the cross at baptism we show we belong to Christ.
In everyday life, we need and use water for so many things. Water is necessary for life! So it is a powerful symbol of what happens in Baptism. In Baptism we are born again and share in the new life of Christ.
There are two different oils used at Baptism:
The Oil of Catechumens is olive oil that has been blessed and is used to give strength to the person being baptised.
The Oil of Chrism is a mixture of olive oil and balsam (perfume) and is rubbed on the crown of the child’s head. It shows that, through Baptism, we are members of God’s holy people, filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In the early days of the Church, new Christians used to wear white clothes after their baptism as a sign that they had been washed clean from sin and had started a new life with Christ. In the Bible, St Paul also talks of ‘putting on Christ.’ The white garment placed on the child is a sign of being clothed in Christ. It symbolises a new life with Jesus, of being wrapped up in Jesus’ love and sharing in his risen life. It is why, today, many children who are being baptised arrive at church already dressed in white baptismal gowns.
‘I am the light of the world,’ said Jesus. The baptismal candle is lit from the paschal (Easter) candle as a sign that in baptism we pass from darkness to light and share in the risen life of Christ. Take this candle home with you. Perhaps, each year, on the anniversary of your child’s baptism you could light it for a few moments and say a prayer of thanksgiving