Baptism

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1. How do I go about obtaining a copy of my Baptism or Confirmation Certificate?

There are a few occasions in ones life when you might be asked to provide a copy of your Baptism Certificate. Typically these are starting school, getting confirmed or getting married. If you are asked to be a godparent or Confirmation sponsor, it is possible that you may be asked to provide proof of your own Baptism and Confirmation.

There is no central record held of Baptism or Confirmations. These records are kept only in the parish where the event took place.

So the next question is.... do you know where you were Baptised? and do you remember where you were Confirmed? Let's assume you know the answer to both of those questions. In this case you just need to contact the parish where you were Baptised/Confirmed and request a copy of your certificate (and you can skip down to the last paragraph now). This is a routine request to Catholic parishes all over the world and parishes are used to handling these requests.

If you know where you were Baptised/Confirmed click here to find a list of Catholic Dioceses around Australia. Most diocesan websites include a list of parishes with contact details listed. If you cannot find the one you are looking for then contact the Catholic Enquiry Centre for further assistance.

Now, if you do not know where you were Baptised/Confirmed, it is time to put your detective hat on. If your parents/godparents or other relatives are alive you may need to investigate the combined family memories to discover the detail you are looking for. Perhaps you were baptised at the same church as your brothers or sisters - check with them if they have a record.

Do others recall if you were Baptised soon after your birth or was there a delay of some months/years? Can you work out the year of your Confirmation by recalling what class you were in at school or some other milestone that will help you identify the year.

Once you have identified the parish, contact them and provide your full name, date of birth and approximate date of the Baptism/Confirmation. Also provide the full names of your parents and it may be helpful to include the names of your godparents/sponsor also, if known.

2. What is Baptism?

Baptism is the foundation of the whole of Christian life. It is the gateway to life in the Holy Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Baptism is a one-off event and anyone who has not previously been baptised may seek Baptism. Through Baptism a person is reborn as a daughter or son of God. It is through Baptism that an individual begins his or her formal relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church.

The phrase to baptise means to "plunge" or "immerse". The immersion in water, or alternatively the pouring of water over the person's head, symbolizes the baptised person's union with the death of Jesus. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, the baptised person arises from the water as a "new creature", a member of the Church.

Baptism consists of a person's immersion in water three times or of the pouring of water over the person's head three times, reciting the words, "I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Those who have been validily baptised in another Christian tradition and are seeking to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, do not need to be baptised again.

Baptism in the history of the Church

From the very beginning of the Church, Baptism has been administered and celebrated as the means by which one becomes a Christian. Indeed, St Peter declared to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, "Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

The first Christians baptised were adults. Them as entire families wanted to become followers of Christ, the Rite of Baptism was adapted to cater for the children and infants of the baptised parents.

The forgiveness of sins

Through Baptism all sins are forgiven. As noted above baptism formalises the Christian's relationship with Jesus Christ. As this relationship grows Jesus joins with and strengthens the person's own effort in living a full and joyful life and resisting temptation.

Integrated into the Church, The Body of Christ

Through Baptism, Christians are integrated into the Body of Christ, the Church. Membership of the Church breaks through all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races and gender.

A permanent relationship with Christ

Through Baptism, the Holy Spirit seals the Christian as being in a permanent relationship with Christ. The effects of sin may cover the effects of Baptism, but sin, however, cannot erase the sign of God's fidelity. It is for this reason that Baptism is not repeated.

Symbolic materials and symbolic actions that are part of Baptism include being immersed in water or having it poured over oneself, as well as anointing with blessed oil as a sign of setting apart, lighting a candle as a sign of Christ the light of the world and the putting on of a white robe as a sign of new life as a follower of Christ.

Extract from"Call and Response: An Introduction to the Catholic Faith" p76.

3. Who can be Baptised?

"Every person not yet baptised and only such a person is able to be baptised." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1246)


After suitable preparation any adult who is not yet baptised is able to be baptised into the Catholic Church

For an infant/ child to be baptised into the Catholic Church there are two requirements;
1.    At least one parent of the infant/child consents to the child being baptised into the Catholic Church.
2.    There needs to be a well-founded hope that the infant/child will be raised in the Catholic religion.

In ordinary circumstances it is expected that at least one parent of the infant/child be a Catholic.

Parents who are not Catholic but want their infant or child baptised into the Catholic faith are encouraged to make an appointment with their local parish priest to discuss the matter.

4. Where can I find some information about Baptism?

The links below lead to information about Baptism provided on websites of some Dioceses of Australia.

Adelaide  
Brisbane
Broken Bay 
Geraldton 
Hobart   
Maitland-Newcastle   
Melbourne   
Parramatta   
Perth  
Rockhampton
Sale 

5. How do I arrange to have my child baptised?

Once you having decided to have your child baptised into the Catholic Church the next step is to make contact with your local Catholic parish. The following link takes you to a list of links to the website of each Diocese in Australia. Each of these websites contains the contact details for each parish in that diocese. Finding your local Catholic parish.

Parents and sometimes godparents are asked to participate in a Baptism preparation program. Preparation for the Sacrament of Baptism may occur in the context of a group other parents or on a one to one basis. Practice varies from parish to parish but a typical baptismal preparation program involves attending a number of sessions with the parish priest, a parish pastoral associate or members of the local parish community. The purpose of the preparation sessions is to provide an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the Sacrament of Baptism for the child and the parents and God-parents.

6. Can our daughter still be baptised if one of us isn't Catholic?

Baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the Church, and bringing children into the family of God through the Church requires parental consent, even if one of them is not themselves baptised.

The non-Catholic parent can have a part to play in the baptismal ceremony, and is free to choose the extent to which he is involved. Some questions he might choose to respond to, others he might choose to remain silent and have you answer.

These are indicative of the questions asked of the parents during the ceremony:

  • What name have you given your child?
  • What do you ask of God's church for N.?

The priest then says: 'You have asked to have your child baptised. In doing so you are accepting responsibility for bringing her up in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring her up to follow Christ's teaching, by loving God and our neighbour. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?’

You are invited to profess your faith. Sometimes, you do this with the whole community.

Following this, and immediately prior to the baptism of your child the priest asks you: ‘Is it your will that your child should be baptised in the faith of the Church, which we have all professed with you?’

Parents are invited to participate in the ceremony in other ways. For example, either one of you holds the child. You are invited to trace the sign of the cross on the child's forehead. Either you or godparent puts a white garment on your child as a sign of being clothed with Christ and as a sign of Christian dignity. Either you or godparent lights your child's baptismal candle from the Paschal Candle.

At the end of the ceremony the celebrant blesses individually the mother and the father of the child.

All of this you can discuss with the celebrant during the preparation for the baptism.

(This information was sourced from the Catholic Australia website, http://www.catholicaustralia.com.au/).

7. Who can be a godparent?

Below is an extract from Canon/Church Law about who can be a sponsor/godparent at Baptism.

SPONSORS

Can.872 Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized 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 baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.

Can.873 There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.

Can.874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

  1. be designated by the one to be baptized, 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 function;
  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 already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;
  4. not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
  5. not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.

§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.

8. Can non-Catholics be godparents? If not, can we choose not to have godparents?

It is necessary to have one godparent who is a Catholic. Another person, a Christian, may witness the baptism along with the Catholic godparent.

The principle that the Church wishes to stress when a request for infant baptism is made is that the parents, supported by the godparents, will ensure that the child be raised and instructed in the Catholic faith.

May I suggest that you look at the Catholic Australia web site: http://www.catholicaustralia.com.au/. There you will find a section on Baptism which is helpful.

Below is an extract from Canon/Church Law about who can be a sponsor/godparent at Baptism.

SPONSORS

Can.872 Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized 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 baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.

Can.873 There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.

Can.874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

  • be designated by the one to be baptized, 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 function;
  • 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;
  • be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;
  • not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
  • not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.

§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.

9. Can our child be baptised twice?

Baptism imprints on the soul an indellible spiritual sign, which consecrates the baptised person as belonging to Christ. Because of this, Baptism cannot be repeated. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1272 & #1280)

10. What happens during the Baptism ceremony?

Baptismal Promises

The family will gather around the Baptism font, which holds the water used for Baptism. The priest or deacon asks the parents what thay ask for their child and they reply, "Baptism". Later the parents make Baptism promises on behalf of their child. These promises are based on the Apostles Creed.

Sign of the Cross
The cross is a reminder of the love that Jesus Christ showed by giving his life for his friends. The tracing of a cross on the forehead of the person being baptised is an invisible "marking" that says "they belong to Jesus." The priest or deacon will trace the cross on the forehead of the baby and invite the parents and godparents to do the same.

Word of God
As every liturgy is based around the word of God in Scripture there will be some readings from the Bible. The priest gives a short homily or reflection on the readings.

Baptism with Water
The  priest pours water over the baby's head (or immerses the baby in water) and says "I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".

The water is a sign of cleansing. It is also a sign of life, because without water nothing can grow. And it is a sign of the new spiritual life into which the baptised person is entering.

Anointing with Oil
The  priest anoints the baby on the chest with the Oil of Baptism. After Baptism, he then anoints the baby's forehead with the Oil of Chrism.

The Oil of Baptism (Catechumens) is olive oil which has been specially blessed. It is associated with the days when athletes used to rub oil into their bodies before events to strengthen them and make their skin more supple. It symbolises strengthening for the challenges of life ahead.

The Oil of Chrism is a combination of olive oil and balsam, and symbolises the sealing with the Holy Spirit.

White Garment
The child is clothed in a white garment which is a symbol of purity and innocence. Sometimes families like to use a christening gown or shawl that has been used by previous generations, while others will use a white baptismal gown, a stole or white bib.

Candle
A candle will be lit as a sign of this new life. It is usually lit from the Easter Candle which sybolises the Light of Christ, and will be held by a parent or godparent.

Baptismal certificate
At the end of the ceremony the parents are given a Baptismal Certificate which they keep as a record of their child's initiation into the Church and present at future sacraments.

11. Why do you wear white at Baptism?

The white garment symboliises that the person baptised has 'put on Christ', has risen with Christ. (Cathechism of the Catholic Church #1243)

12. Why do we have a Baptism Candle?

The candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlighted the new believer. In Christ, the baptised are "the light of the world".

13. What is a Sacrament?

Sacraments are God's gift to the Church. They both symbolise God acting in the lives of people and they bring about what they symbolise.  One way to think about how symbolic action has a real impact is to think of an embrace between husband and wife or between close friends.To those looking on, the embrace is a symbol of the closeness of the relationship between the people. For the people themselves the embrace actually brings them closer together as through it they feel more strongly bonded to each other. Sacraments are a little like that.

When a person is baptised, those observing the symbolic action of either immersion in water or of water being poured  - are prompted to think of wide range of associations that water brings to mind.

Examples include water that cleanses, rain that refreshes parched land; the sea, lakes and rivers teaming with life; floods that destroy; and our fear of drowning. For the person who is baptised the experience of symbolic drowning and cleansing has an impact on their interior life of feelings and values.Through God’s grace bestowed in the Sacrament of Baptism a Christian’s life takes on a new meaning and their relationship with God and the Christian community becomes deeper and richer.

All of the sacraments involve people making use of material things acting in symbolic ways. God’s grace works in the body, mind and spirit of a person as they participate in sacramental action. Sacraments have a real effect on the life of those who accept them as gifts from God. In and through sacraments people are invited to reflect upon the meaning and significance of their relationship with God, with others and all of creation.

There are sevensacraments. They fit into three categories, as follows:

Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation

Sacraments of Healing:  Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick

Sacarments in the of service of Communion: Marriage, Holy Orders

Extract from"Call and Response: An Introduction to the Catholic Faith" p74.

14. What are the Seven Sacraments?

Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1210)


The sacraments are divided into: the Sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist); the Sacraments of healing (Penance and Anointing of the Sick); and the Sacraments at the service of communion and mission (Holy Orders and Matrimony). The sacraments touch all the important moments of Christian life. All of the sacraments are ordered to the Holy Eucharist “as to their end” (Saint Thomas Aquinas). (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCCC] 250)


The Sacraments of Christian Initiation.
Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are strengthened by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Eucharist.

Baptism
This sacrament is primarily called Baptism because of the central rite with which it is celebrated. To baptize means to “immerse” in water. The one who is baptized is immersed into the death of Christ and rises with him as a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This sacrament is also called the “bath of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5); and it is called “enlightenment” because the baptized becomes “a son of light” (Ephesians 5:8). CCCC 252


Confirmation
Confirmation is called Chrismation (in the Eastern Churches: Anointing with holy myron or chrism) because the essential rite of the sacrament is anointing with chrism. It is called Confirmation because it confirms and strengthens baptismal grace. CCCC 266


Eucharist
The Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory. Thus he entrusted to his Church this memorial of his death and Resurrection. It is a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet, in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us. CCCC 271


The Sacraments of Healing
Christ, the physician of our soul and body, instituted these sacraments because the new life that he gives us in the sacraments of Christian initiation can be weakened and even lost because of sin. Therefore, Christ willed that his Church should continue his work of healing and salvation by means of these two sacraments. CCCC 295

Penance and Reconciliation

The sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession, Penance) is the means and the sign that Christ gave us to show His willingness to heal us when, through our own human frailty, we turn in on ourselves and away from Him and our neighbour. This is the sign God has given us that through the words of His priest ("I now absolve you from your sins") whatever harm we have done to our relationship with our God is healed and we are restored to a state of warm friendship with our Father in heaven. CCCC 310


Anointing of the Sick

This sacrament confers a special grace which unites the sick person more intimately to the Passion of Christ for his good and for the good of all the Church. It gives comfort, peace, courage, and even the forgiveness of sins if the sick person is not able to make a confession. Sometimes, if it is the will of God, this sacrament even brings about the restoration of physical health. In any case this Anointing prepares the sick person for the journey to the Father’s House. CCCC 319


The Sacraments at the Service of Communion and Mission
Two sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, confer a special grace for a particular mission in the Church to serve and build up the People of God. These sacraments contribute in a special way to ecclesial communion and to the salvation of others. CCCC 321


Holy Orders
The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred, in each of its three degrees (Bishop, Priest, Deacon), by means of the imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand by the Bishop who pronounces the solemn prayer of consecration. With this prayer he asks God on behalf of the ordinand for the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit and for the gifts of the Spirit proper to the ministry to which he is being ordained. CCCC 331


Matrimony
The sacrament of Matrimony establishes a perpetual and exclusive bond between the spouses. God himself seals the consent of the spouses. Therefore, a marriage which is ratified and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. Furthermore, this sacrament bestows upon the spouses the grace necessary to attain holiness in their married life and to accept responsibly the gift of children and provide for their education. CCCC 346

End FAQ

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