Baptism - Part 5
Baptism: Part 5 - Questions People Ask
“My husband’s family are not Catholics but he would very much like his sister to be Godmother to our baby son. Is this allowed?”
Godparents go back to the days when most adult converts to the Christian faith had no Christian parents. Godparents spoke up for the baptised person and, if necessary helped him or her to grow in the faith. Today, in the vast majority of infant baptisms, these tasks belong primarily to parents.
The church insists that at least one Godparent is a Catholic. The Godparent’s primary role remains that of supporting the parents in bringing up the child in the Christian faith. However, most parents choose two. When this happens, providing one Godparent is a Catholic, it is certainly acceptable for a non-Catholic to act as a witness to the baptism. It remains important, however, that your sister-in-law is baptised and of a sufficient age and maturity to appreciate her role.
"My wife goes to a different Christian church and would like her Minister to take part in the baptism. Is this possible?”
Yes. Your wife’s minister may share in the prayers and readings at your baby’s baptism. Discuss it with your priest; he will be happy to explain what is customary.
"How much does a baptism cost in the Catholic Church?”
Nothing. There is no charge for a baptism or any other church service. It is customary, however, for an offering to be made. But if you cannot afford any offering don’t be anxious. It is a purely voluntary offering.
"How soon should I have my baby baptised?”
The church encourages Catholic families to have their children baptised as soon as possible after birth. This is because of Christ’s teaching on the fundamental importance of baptism. If there is any danger of death the baby must be baptised immediately and anyone can baptise. You pour water over the head of the baby, at the same time saying the words.” I baptise you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
The date of the baptism will depend partly on the mother’s health for it is important that she is present; and partly on the time needed for the preparation of the parents. This is why it is a good idea to inform the priest before the birth that you want to have the child baptised.
If you have experienced some difficulties with the practice of your faith it may be helpful to allow a little longer in order to clarify your own beliefs and rebuild a life of faith within your family.
"My mother says I have to give my baby girl the name of a saint but I don’t agree. Who is right?”
In the first few centuries of the Church the custom grew up of changing one’s name at baptism to express some Christian idea such as Irene (peace). In succeeding centuries the church advised parents to call their children after a saint. You are not obliged, then, to call your daughter after a saint (although there are plenty to choose from) but the Church still encourages you to choose a name which reflects your own faith.
"I’m an unmarried mother. I want my baby baptised but I’m anxious about the kind of reception I’ll get."
"You will be given a friendly welcome by the priest who will be happy to arrange for the baptism of your baby. So don’t worry at all. The priest will simply want to be assured, as with any other parent, of your own commitment to your child’s Catholic upbringing.
"My partner isn’t a Christian and feels self-conscious and anxious about the ceremony and what we have to do as parents during the baptism. Will there be a practice beforehand?”
Your partner’s anxiety is perfectly understandable. Even people who attend church services regularly can feel nervous and shy about taking a central part in an important ceremony such as their child’s baptism. However, there is no need to be worried. The priest leading the service will guide you through it step by step and indicate exactly what part you play as parents. During the preparation for the baptism don’t by shy about mentioning any point or action which worries either of you. It is important that the day of your baby’s baptism doesn’t become an ordeal but a family occasion to be enjoyed and celebrated by everyone present.
"My baby was baptised at birth because of illness. Can he be re-baptised in church?”
Baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It means we become a member of God’s family; we become a Christian. We cannot become what we already are.
The baptism can’t be repeated but it is desirable that you have a celebration in church and share in prayers and blessing which are part of the baptismal ceremony. You may also wish to appoint Godparents at the same time. Such a service is a lovely “thanksgiving” for the safety and well-being of your baby.
"I have been lapsed for a number of years and my seven year old daughter has never been baptised. Could I have her baptised at the same time as our baby?”
Yes but you will need to allow time for her preparation. She will need to be given more instruction about baptism so that she understands what is happening. You may well feel that you would also find some form of preparation helpful in order to clarify any points about the faith that have given you difficulties.
People sometimes wonder about how to approach a priest. After Sunday Mass is not always the best time as there are usually crowds of people around. Try to book a time convenient for both of you in order to meet in an atmosphere of calm and peace.
We hope that you have found this part of the pack helpful. However, if you have a question that we have not addressed, please do make a note of it and bring it up when you meet with the priest who will baptise your child.
Thank you for your time.