Sunday, June 11, 2017

Catholicism Explained: The Sacrament Of Baptism

Hello! Sorry I've been gone so long, on my unannounced hiatus. A close relative died recently, and that combined with plain lack of ideas, I just haven't wanted to do much. Today I am going to talk about a very important Sacrament of the Catholic Church. Why is it so important? Because not only is it the very first Sacrament one receives, but because it is the door to receiving other Sacraments validly. One cannot receive any other Sacrament validly without Baptism coming first. What is Baptism? Let's dig into that! :) But first, here are the links to the previous Catholicism Explained posts, and Lucy Agnes' - the founder of CE - blog, where all the ones before my charge can be found.
Catholicism Explained: The Sacraments
Catholicism Explained: Devotions And Sacramentals (Part II, The Origins Of)
Catholicism Explained: Devotions And Sacramentals (Part I, What Are They?)
Catholicism Explained: The Three Sacred Authorities
Catholicism Explained: Purgatory
TangleWebs And Fairy Rings
Alrighty, now let's dig into it! ;)
Basic Theology
Baptism is a sealed Sacrament (see the previous post for more details), meaning it can only be received once, and it leaves an inerasable mark upon your soul when you do receive it. To separate it into the most basic of basics, physically it consists of being cleansed in water, and spiritually, it consists of being cleansed in grace. The water removes dirt, perhaps, but it represents what is really going on in the Sacrament - the grace removing sin. So, like I explained in the last post, it really is accomplishing what it represents - it's not just symbolic alone. It is also the rite of initiation that makes you a part of Christ's Mystical Body - the Church. Once baptized, you are an inseparable part of the Church, though you may stray from your baptismal vows later in life. Depending on the age of the person, sometimes the baptismal vows are made for them, by their parents and godparents, or - if they are an adult - they say their baptismal vows for themselves.
Baptism is only valid when administered by a bishop, priest or deacon to someone for the first time. Often, among Catholic families, we are often baptized as infants, rather than when older. My siblings and I were all baptized within two months of birth, if that gives you a rough idea of average age for infant baptism. As I mentioned, only a bishop, priest or deacon may administer the Sacrament, except in cases of extreme necessity, in which a laity, or correctly intentioned non-baptized (see Catechism of The Catholic Church, 1256) may also do so, using the Trinitarian formula ("...In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit..."). Here is the definition of Baptism from the good old CCC:

"Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: 'Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.'"
(Catechism Of The Catholic Church, 1213)
The Celebration Of Baptism
I'd bet there's at least one person here wondering 'Who are the godparents?', 'Why water?', 'What are baptismal vows?', etc. These are the aspects of Baptism that I shall now explain. First of all, the godparents are - to put it simply - the spiritual parents of the person (usually child) being baptized. While the person may have practicing, religious, living biological parents, they will still be given a second set of 'parents', whose job is specifically to nurture the individual spiritually (unlike the true parents, which are to nurture every necessary aspect of the child). Usually the godparents are hand-picked by the true parents, unless the person being baptized is an adult. The godparents, along with the parents (and sometimes the grandparents), take the baptismal vows for the child being baptized, so that the child may confirm and renew them himself/herself in Confirmation later in life. Godparents may only consist of one Catholically-baptized, practicing woman, and one Catholically-baptized, practicing man. They do not have to be a married couple (or a couple at all), and many times aren't, but they do have to work together for the child's spiritual wellbeing (most of my siblings, and myself also, have married couples as our godparents, mainly because my mother has a preference for such). As for why we use water, well, it's biblical! (See quotes below.)
And besides, what better physically represents the cleansing of the soul than something that cleanses the body? As for the baptismal vows, they are vows taken in baptism for the purpose of promising God one's soul. In our baptismal vows, we vow to follow the Lord to the best of our ability, and to renounce Satan, who is all that is against Our Lord. Often these vows are taken for us when we are children, by our godparents (and sometimes parents or grandparents), but an adult convert takes them himself/herself. They also represent another thing - wedding vows. In wedding vows, we vow to love someone forever and to cherish and aid them. In baptismal vows, we do the same thing, but for Christ rather than an earthly spouse. Because Baptism makes one a part of Christ's Church, and Christ's Church is His Holy Bride, it only makes sense that becoming a part of Christ's Bride involves something rather like marriage vows. There are other aspects of Baptism which have to do with the way we celebrate it, but they are not quite as relevant, though still important enough. For instance, the candle one often receives at baptism. It's usually given to the parents or godparents to keep for the child, but if it is an adult being baptized, then they take it for themselves. It represents the light now inside of the person - a flame for Christ - to burn brightly forever. And then there is the method of Baptism. I named the three methods in my previous CE post, but I'll list them again here:
1. Being anointed with holy water.
2. Being immersed in holy water.
3. Being sprinkled with holy water.
All of the methods have been used, and they have a beautiful symbolism to them*. Firstly, the anointing is after a custom in the Old Testament, where priests, kings, and victims would be anointed before their ordination/coronation/sacrifice. Since we Catholics go out into the world as priests, kings, and victims for Christ, this method's symbolism is only appropriate. Secondly, immersion also symbolizes something. It represents being completely buried in Christ's cleansing grace, and very visibly so.
*Well, according to my research, Catholics do not now use sprinkling, but it has been used by Christian peoples in the past.
Awwwwwwwwww! This picture is soooooo cute!
Some Objections
Why would you baptize infants? They can't make their baptismal vows for themselves, so why should they be baptized?
Good question. You see, whether or not we may speak for ourselves at the time of baptism, we all should be able to be received into the Church, and be able to gain the graces of baptism, which enable us to merit salvation. So, unless we would prevent non-adults from being in the Church at all, the only logical decision is infant baptism. And often in early Church history it occurred that the whole households were baptized, not just the adults or the family members, but also servants and children. The same vows made at baptism for the child will be confirmed to be true by him/her at his/her Confirmation. Not to mention something Jesus Himself said - you know, about letting the little children come to Him? ;)
But surely it isn't necessary for Salvation?
Actually, yes it is. Very much so! Take a look at these verses, and then try and draw your answer.

"Jesus answered, and said to him: 'Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God... unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
(John 3:3,5)

So what do you think? ;) However, this - despite what some may think - does not exclude all who are not validly baptized or not baptized at all from Heaven. You see, there are three forms of baptism that may enter one into God's kingdom:
1. Sacramental Baptism (in other words, the actual receiving of a visible water Baptism).
2. Baptism of desire (dying with the strong intent of being Sacramentally baptized, but before one actually can).
3. Baptism of blood (Unbaptized Martyrdom - dying for the faith before being Sacramentally baptized).
All of these count as Baptism that may enter one into Heaven. And even if Baptism were not necessary to be saved, we should still do it. Why? Jesus did it Himself, which means it must be a good thing, and if it is a good thing, then why should we not do it after His example?
Some Quotes...
Seriously, this part is my favorite part of Catholicism Explained. ;)

"I knew him not, but he who sent me to baptize with water, said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."
(John 1:33)

"Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened; And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: 'Thou are my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.'"
(Luke 3: 21-22)

"For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life."
(Romans 6:4)
"Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him"
(St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40)

"Let none of you turn deserter. Let your baptism be your armor; your faith, your helmet; your love, your spear; your patient endurance, your panoply"
(St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to Polycarp 6)

"When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal... 'and sons of the Most High; [Psalm 82:6]. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins, a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted, an illumination by which we behold the holy light of salvation"
(St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 1:6:26:1)

"This sacrament...  signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one 'can enter the kingdom of God.'"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1215)
I think - and I am somewhat ashamed, because I feel like I say this every time - that the significance is fairly apparent. Baptism is significant in its aid for getting us to Heaven. If we can't go to Heaven without it, then it is truly very significant indeed. And I think that - while this post isn't terribly long - I have perhaps covered enough. But I would love to answer any questions or concerns in the comments if you have any. :)
My Sources
Douay-Rheims Translation Bible.
Catholicism of the Catholic Church.
Why Is That In Tradition?, by Patrick Madrid.
Daily Defense, by Jimmy Akin.
A Catholic Dictionary, by Donald Attwalter.
So what did you think? Did I cover it well enough? I am merely being vain in thinking that this is perhaps one of my better put-together CE posts? :P Have anything to add? Anything to ask? Any concerns or comments on the subject? Any suggestions for the bettering of Catholicism Explained? Anything to note that I did in this post that you would like to see in future CEs?


  1. First of all, I'm so sorry for your loss, Belle! *hugs* Of course it's perfectly natural for you to take a break from online stuff for as long as you need. I felt the same way when my uncle passed away last year.

    And yes, I think this was a perfectly wonderful CE!! It was covered so well! And all the adorable, beautiful pictures!! And your list of sources!!! And the quotes! I do believe that one from St. Ignatius of Antioch is my favorite. :) So stirring!

    I love learning about the three forms of baptism. It's so fascinating. Sometimes people seem to think that the Church "excludes" non-Catholics from the possibility of salvation because she teaches that outside the Church there is no salvation, but they're forgetting about baptism of desire--which covers, not only those who want to be baptized in the Catholic Church, but those who honestly don't know about the faith but are trying their best to live moral lives. :)

    Thanks for the wonderful post, Belle!

    1. Oh, yes, isn't that quote just the best! I just about died from awe when I read it. :D
      Yes, so true! And I wanted to be sure to include that, because it's very important. :)
      Thanks for reading it, Luce! :D