Baptism - Part 3
Baptism: Part 3 - The meaning of the prayers and symbolic actions of the Service
Being a parent brings out the very best that is in us. We would willingly lay down our lives for our children and probably spend far too much time worrying about their future! As parents, you really want the very best in life for your child; that is why you are asking for your child to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.
In this section we will go through the service of Baptism and help you to grow in your understanding of the words and symbolic actions that form the parts of the service.
The Rite of Baptism for children.
1. The reception of the child.
The service opens with the words “Welcome”. The celebrant welcomes everyone who has come to participate in this very special celebration.
The Celebrant will then ask you a number of questions
Celebrant: What name do you give your child?
Parents: We have chosen ............. as the name of our child
We are all wonderfully made by God and He has called each of us by name. Our names are very important to us. They are a symbol of who we are. This simple word becomes a part of our whole identity, an answer to the question “Who are we?”
At Baptism your child’s name is given a special meaning by God. Some parents choose names that are a reminder of someone we love or respect. Sometimes we choose the name of a Patron Saint who can act as a role model, showing our children how to walk with the dignity and strength of Christ in the world.
Celebrant: What do you ask of God’s Church?
Parents: We want our child to be a member of God’s Family
Baptism is called the gateway to life with God. Jesus came to give us life to the full, a real life full of joy, peace and hope! So by taking your child through “the door” of Baptism you will give your child the potential for the very best life imaginable. As a member of God’s family your child will come to learn about God’s unconditional love and begin to know that he gazes upon each one of us with love. Your child will join the family of the Church, a community of friendship ready and willing to support and encourage its members. Your child will be able to experience God’s healing and forgiveness for the mistakes we make in life.
Through Baptism your child will be open to God’s Grace, experiencing His help and His presence throughout the many challenges that your child will meet in life. His Holy Spirit will give your child a sense of purpose and the courage to live according to God’s law of love. Your active participation in the life and worship of your local church will help you to bring up your child in the Christian faith. How can we possibly not want all this for our children?
The Godparents of the child are then asked:
Celebrant: Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their ministry of nurturing the seed of faith that God is giving to this child today.
Godparents: We are ready and willing, with the grace of God and the help of the Church
Next the celebrant claims the child for Christ and welcomes the child in the name of the community of the Catholic Church. He traces the cross on the child’s forehead and invites the parents and godparents to do the same.
Celebrant: The Christians community welcomes you which great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Saviour by the sign of the cross. I now trace the cross on your forehead and invite your parents and Godparents to do the same.
The signing of the cross is a reminder of what Jesus has won for us all: salvation, freedom and real community. Originally slaves were marked with a sign of ownership, the early Christian community took this symbol and made it their own. By being signed with the cross we show that your child now belongs to Christ. Everyone wants to belong to something; we follow a football team, join a club or form a circle of close friends. Through Baptism we belong to Christ’s body on earth, the Church, God’s family.
We now listen as God’s family to the teaching he has given us, the teaching that is his personal word to us on this very special day.
Celebration of God’s Word
One or more scripture readings may be used. The celebrant will discuss this with you when you meet with him. The stories remind us of the true meaning of Baptism and of our life as Christians. God’s word has the power to touch each of us individually. Through it we can be strengthened, encouraged, challenged and instructed. The key is to listen to what God may be saying to your child and also to you through the readings.
The readings are followed by a homily given by the celebrant.
Then follows the intercessions.
During the Baptism ceremony you will have the opportunity to ask God to bless your child, your family and yourselves.
There are so many things to pray for. The good news is that we are not alone in our prayer. As Christians we are part of the Church, not only here on earth but also in Heaven. We have the Saints who can pray for us and with us for our many needs.
The celebrant then anoints the child with oil. A prayer for the strengthening of the child is said. The anointing with the sign of the cross with oil on the breast of the child highlights the transformation of the child freed from original sin to a new life in and with Christ.
Anointing Before Baptism
Your child’s soul, like all of our souls needs to be restored to its original beauty, which was disfigured by man’s sin. The Holy Spirit of God will make his home in your child and promises never to leave.
Before battle soldiers used to anoint themselves with oil to strengthen their bodies before the fight. This sign of the cross signifies protection for our child like a shield over the heart.
Life can be hard for us all. Through Baptism your child will become open to the power of God that will bring the strength that your child will need. Without God’s strength, life can be a tremendous burden, but with God’s help we can do what otherwise would be impossible, day after day.
2. Celebration of the Sacrament.
The celebration now moves to the Baptismal font. The celebrant briefly reminds the congregation of the meaning of the rite.
Blessing and invocation over the water.
The celebrant blesses the water with a prayer of thanksgiving, reminding those present of the saving history that water carries.
Profession of Faith
The adults in the gathering are then called upon to renew their own Baptism.
It is at this point in the ceremony that the focus is upon the parents and the godparents. It is here that you will profess the faith that you want your child to grow in, you profess it on their behalf. You will say ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Saviour and giver of all life. You will reject sin and willingly accept God’s invitation to you to bring up your child to know and serve our loving God. At the end of this section the priest says: ‘This is our faith. We are proud to profess it.’
Now is a good time to stop and renew your own belief in God.
The celebrant will them baptise the child by pouring water over the head of the child, while saying, “(........... I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.
The baptismal water is holy water as it is infused with the Holy Spirit. The word ‘baptism’ means to be totally immersed, not just in water but into Jesus’ death. When Jesus died for mankind on the cross it was not a failure, it was God’s rescue plan. He died to save us from evil, to forgive our sins and to heal our wounded hearts. Through baptism we are immersed into the very death of Jesus leaving our old life behind.
Jesus restores us to a loving relationship with our Father in Heaven. This amazing event is at the heart of human history and we can experience the power of it in our lives as we share His resurrection from the dead.
Like a baby being born from the water in the womb, through baptism we are born again to a new life with God.
We can now share his life together as members of the family of the Church. We come to share in a life of joy, peace and hope that will last for eternity.
Anointing With Chrism
The child’s head is anointed with Chrism, the same oil used in the sacrament of Confirmation. This anointing is a sign that your child is chosen by God. Through baptism your child will receive the power to make a real difference and will take on the mission of Jesus to be Priest, Prophet and King. That means to bring God to a needy world, to boldly speak the truth of God’s love and to serve the poor and afflicted with compassion and mercy. We all seek this kind of meaning and purpose in our lives. This oil signifies how special your child has become. Baptism is the first sacrament of initiation. In Confirmation when your child reaches the age at which s/he can understand the promises you have made for your child today, the initiation begun today will be completed.
The celebrant then clothes the child with a white garment as a sign of becoming a new creation and being clothed with Christ.
Clothing With The White Garment
Your child will be clothed with Christ. That’s why we have the white garment. It symbolises the dignity that faith in Christ brings. It is because of this that your child will be able to walk, as St. Paul says, with head held high whatever happens, knowing that they are special and loved by God. What a difference this can make throughout a child’s entire life.
The Lighted Candle
As the parents are handed candles lit from the Easter candle they are asked to keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts and to help their child develop a strong and active faith within the church.
As parents, godparents, family and friends we accept the responsibility to keep this flame of faith alight.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our children can now call God, father. They receive the gift of prayer. As they grow up they will be able to develop an intimate, loving relationship with God. Prayer is an amazing gift. It means they will never have to be lonely on the inside because they will be able to speak to God as a friend throughout life.
The celebrant first blesses the parents and godparents of the child and lastly the whole gathering. What an amazing privilege we have to bring up our children. But we can not do it alone. God wants to be very involved in our parenting. Being a parent often stretches us more than anything else in life. We need his help.
The blessing that you will receive at the end of the ceremony will give you the grace and help that you need in the midst of the many challenges of parenting.
After The Baptism
Baptism is not a one-off event; we have to experience it everyday. Maybe the busyness of life has taken over your life. This is a good time to think about your priorities and to experience more of God’s love in your own life, more of his strength, healing power and joy.
During the preparation for the baptism of your child make a note of any points you would like explained further and you will have the opportunity to put these to the priest.