Sacramental Preparation

Baptism

Sacramental Preparation

Baptism

Baptism is the foundation Sacrament on which the other six sacraments build upon. To access the other sacraments, one must first be baptised. Baptism is  an initiation into the Paschal Mystery and the Christian community of faith in God. Baptism occurs when water is poured on the candidate’s forehead or the candidate is immersed in water and the minister using the words “ I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Baptism cleanses us of our ‘Original Sin’ and (in the case of a person who has reached the age of reason) of actual sins. Baptism  makes us  children of God, members of Christ,  incorporated us into the Church and makes us sharers in the mission of Christ on earth. The baptised person is infused with the Sanctifying Grace and receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

History of Baptism

The word ‘baptism’ comes from the Greek word ‘baptizein’ which mean to dip or immerse.
While Jesus walked on the face of the earth, baptism was celebrated by total immersion and was carried out by some Jewish groups as a sign of ritual cleansing. One of these groups was the Essenes,  and John the Baptist was thought to be a member.

One of the last directives Jesus gave to his disciples was to baptise. In  Matthew 28:19  Jesus said: ‘go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. The disciples carried out this command from Pentecost Day (Acts 2: 37-41) and the church continues to do that till this generation. Baptism provides a new beginning  and brings about a real change in the lives of the newly baptised.  For example, when Saul was  baptised, he took on a new name and mission (Acts 9: 1-9). Adults who listened to St. Peter’s teaching on Pentecost Day repented and requested for baptism. However, there are also accounts in Acts of the Apostles where the entire household were baptised. For example, the gaoler at Philippi (Acts 16:25 -33) and the entire household of Lydia (Acts 16: 11-15).

In the early years of the church, Christians were persecuted, and many were hostile to them. While some Christians gave up their followership,  others became more committed and devoted to their faith. Consequently, those who express desire for baptism were required to have a sponsor from the community of believers who will vouch for their seriousness and commitment  to the period of preparation that lasted between two to three years. The sponsor will testify that the candidate has demonstrated within and outside the church’s community a determination to change their way of life and embrace the christian faith and teachings of Jesus.

At the third century of the Church, the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, started the three-year period of preparation that all must undergo before being baptised. It however emphasized that it is not the length of  time that counts but the conduct of the candidate. This three-year period was called the period of catechumenate and candidates for baptism undergoing instructions were called catechumens- a Greek word meaning ‘instruction’. So, for  the early  200 years of the church,  a three-year baptism preparation programme was the norm. This marked a shift from the immediate baptism of the converted as witnessed on the First Pentecost Day.                                    Furthermore, between  300 and 500 years of the Church, baptism preparation  was reviewed, and  the duration was adjusted  into  2 years.

Baptism of Infants

Before your Child is baptised, the parish guidelines advise that parents should attend the mandatory Baptism Preparation  Programme (BPP).   BPP  is very relaxed, Non-Catholics spouses/partners/family members are very welcome and there are no exams or tests! It is also a perfect opportunity to meet other Parents in the Parish. In our two parishes, we run two types BPP:

  1. Preparation and Celebration With Mass

This programme runs for three consecutive Sundays.  It begins with the  Sunday Mass,  the candidate’s family and godparents are expected to be at the three Sunday masses. However,  godparents  who are not local to the parish or city  may be permitted not to attend the masses, they must however be at the mass of baptism. After completing the preparatory programme, the celebration of baptism takes place during a  Sunday mass.

  1. Preparation and Celebration Outside Mass

The preparation takes place on two consecutive Thursdays at 7.00 – 8.00pm and the celebration of baptism is usually at 1.00pm on a Saturday.

  1. Children who are between the ages of 7 and 14 years are regarded as those of catechetical age. Therefore, they should receive some form of preparation. They are prepared following the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Children (this is part of the RCIA programme).
  2. Children who are under the age of seven follow the same usual  preparation appropriate for infants – see  Infant Baptism above.
  3. Young people from the age of 14 are prepared for baptism following the normal RCIA process – see policy for Adult Baptism.

    3. Baptism Forms

The forms can be collected from the Parish Office during office times or by appointment.  

Please call the parish office  on 0117-9823380 to arrange for baptism form collection and book a place at the next baptism preparation programme (BPP).

Adults Baptism

The norm for adults seeking baptism is to follow the parish  Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults and are baptised at the Easter Vigil when it is discerned that they are ready, following the scrutinies of the RCIA.

Godparents/Sponsors

Canon Law is the body of laws and regulations that govern the Catholic Church and all its members
Canon 872 states that in so far as possible, a person to be baptised is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor
also helps the baptised person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfil faithfully the obligations inherent in it.

Canon  873 states that one sponsor, male or female, is sufficient; but there may be two, one of each sex.

Canon. 874, subsection1 states that to be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person MUST:

  1. Be designated by the one to be baptised, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this
  2. Have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause.
  3. Be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken.
  4. Not labour under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared.
  5. Not be the father or mother of the one to be baptised.

Can we have Non- Catholic Godparents? See the above requirements of Canon law          regarding Godparents.

A Godparent MUST be a Confirmed Catholic, who has received the Blessed Eucharist and who is a practicing Catholic. You need at least ONE Catholic Godparent. Any other person of another religion will still play an important role in the life of your Child but is recognised and recorded in the Baptism Register and on the  Baptism certificate as  a Christian ‘Witness’ and not a Godparent.

On the day of the Baptism

Please ensure that you are seated at least 15 minutes before the start of the ceremony. We provide a baptism candle for your child, but you are also welcomed to provide your own if you have a special one. The candle is lit from the Paschal ( Easter) candle, symbolic of the light of Christ, to shine forth in the life of the baptised.

What to wear

Children are to wear white and please bring a white garment ( a baby shawl or white blanket will suffice) should your Child not be dressed in white. The white garment symbolises that your Child has ‘put on Christ’. It is symbolic of new life in Christ, to be worn throughout our lives.

Church Offering

It is often customary to make an offering to the Church on these occasions although there is NO charge  to receive a Sacrament.   A donation envelope will be available should you wish to contribute.

Dates for future  Baptism Preparation Course

The dates will be published in due course when we are out of COVID-19 lockdown.