The Rite of Infant Baptism: The beginning Initiation into the Catholic Community of Faith
Getting your baby baptized at Holy Family
A baby makes a difference. Everyone knows that. They have to. Adjustments are made, and the long process of taking this person from total helplessness to maturity begins. Society, in the person of the neighbors and relations, medical personnel and even the business world, prepares parents for their new lives before the birth of the baby. Baby showers help provide necessary supplies as well as wisdom. Questions and answers about sex, weight and name get everyone through the first days. The larger society also takes notice: making future room in schools, work places, and neighborhoods.
The church also observes the birth of a baby in its community. The baptism of infants is the most visible manifestation of this notice. This rite, revised after Vatican II to acknowledge the reality that this is an infant and not just a small adult being baptized, is a gathering of the church around the couple and their child. Just as with adults, the initiation is initiation into a community, but here it is the community’s part to pledge itself to be a source of nourishment, of faith, of a gospel-filled way of life.
Holy Family asks parents to attend TWO preparation sessions. The first session is done in a friendly setting either in a parishioner’s home or in the Pastoral Center. It deals with the Church’s understanding of this sacrament, the theology of Baptism. A second more practical session follows and happens in the Church; both parent and godparents attend this second session. These gatherings provide opportunities for the parents to meet other parishioners who have taken on this special ministry. Here they can discuss the commitment they make in having their child baptized, and find out something about how the parish can support them in this commitment. In a process like this, the parents can make a decision about the baptism. Parents and godparents are called to seriously consider their intention to make a home where their child will be raised as a Catholic . Once they have attended these sessions then they will schedule the baptism. These sessions may be done during the pregnancy before the child is born.
In the child’s baptism, parents and community express commitment. That is why the community needs to be present: Its support is real, not theoretical. In practice, that commitment is shown at the quarterly blessing of newly baptized babies. Families are encouraged to get their child involved in our formational ministries such the Toddler Cooperative and Sunday Preschool. These ministries want to show the parents a church whose concern is to help with their real needs and not just to impose its own patterns on them. These ministries see to it that the church does not forget about the child during the years between baptism and first communion. They know how important these first years are to all that comes after, and how much support parents need at this time.
The rite of infant baptism are scheduled the second, third and fourth Sundays of the month. There are a limited of the number of infants at any Sunday to assure a festive welcoming of the child and a strong affirmation of the faith and commitment of the parents and the community.
Within the rite, the acclamations of the assembly, voicing their support for the parents and rejoicing at the baptism itself, need to be strong, with song or applause or other clear signs. Recent documents make clear the church’s preference for baptism by immersion, so that the symbol of the water, spoken of so well in its blessing, may be clear to everyone present. The baptismal garment and candle are to be beautiful objects, witnessing what has happened.
When an infant is baptized, our attention very naturally is on him or her. But the parents deserve attention too, for they are the ones who at this baptism commit them¬selves to raising their child in faith. They need support and encouragement, prayer and good example to fulfill their vocation as Christian Catholic parents. They may be newcomers to the neighborhood or infrequent worshipers. Even for active and practicing parents, the baptism of a child can be an occasion of further initiation into the church’s life.
To sign up for a baptism at Holy Family, please call Holy Family’s Pastoral Center at 626-799-8908.