The Sacrament of Baptism
The Catholic Sacraments
The significant events in the lives of Catholics are celebrated within the community of the Church. These sacred moments are celebrated as sacraments. We address the sacred moments of initiation into the people of God, through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. A couple enters into a union, a communion, in Marriage. There is a sacred moment of a person's dying, with the anointing of the sick and the celebration of his life in the funeral liturgy.
The Sacraments are:
- Anointing of the Sick
- Funeral Rites
The Sacrament of Baptism
The Sacrament of Baptism is often called "The door of the Church," because it is the first of the seven sacraments not only in time (since most Catholics receive it as infants) but in priority, since the reception of the other sacraments depends on it. It is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation, the other two being the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
Once baptised, a person becomes a member of the Church. Traditionally, the rite (or ceremony) of baptism was held outside the doors of the main part of the church, to signify this fact.
The Necessity of Baptism:
Christ Himself ordered His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations and to baptize those who accept the message of the Gospel. In His encounter with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), Christ made it clear that baptism was necessary for salvation: "Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." For Catholics, the sacrament is not a mere formality; it is the very mark of a Christian, because it brings us into new life in Christ.
The Form of the Sacrament:
While the Church has an extended rite of Baptism which is normally celebrated, which includes roles for both parents and godparents, the essentials of that rite are two: the pouring of water over the head of the person to be baptized (or the immersion of the person in water); and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
The Effects of the Sacrament:
Baptism has six primary effects, which are all supernatural graces:
1. The removal of the guilt of both Original Sin (the sin imparted to all mankind by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) and personal sin (the sins that we have committed ourselves).
2. The remission of all punishment that we owe because of sin, both temporal (in this world and in Purgatory) and eternal (the punishment that we would suffer in hell).
3. The infusion of grace in the form of sanctifying grace (the life of God within us); the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the three theological virtues.
4. Becoming a part of Christ.
5. Becoming a part of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.
6. Enabling participation in the sacraments, the priesthood of all believers, and the growth in grace.