The Catholic sacrament of Baptism is one of the seven sacraments of the Church, and is considered the first and most important of the sacraments. Baptism is the means by which a person becomes a member of the Catholic Church and receives the grace of God through the action of the Holy Spirit. It is the first of three sacraments of initiation.
The origins of Baptism can be traced back to the very beginning of Christianity, when Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. In the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). This command, known as the Great Commission, is seen as the foundation for the practice of Baptism in the Catholic Church.
Baptism is a sacred and deeply meaningful rite that signifies a person's entry into the Christian community. Through the waters of Baptism, a person is washed clean of the original sin that was passed down from Adam and Eve, and is reborn as a child of God. This rebirth is made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, who descends upon the baptized person and fills them with the grace of God.
In the Catholic Church, Baptism is usually administered to infants, who are born without the stain of original sin. This is because the Church believes that all children are born with a natural desire to seek and know God, and that they should be given the opportunity to be baptized as soon as possible. However, Baptism is also available to adults who have not yet been baptized, and who wish to join the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church teaches that the proper minister of baptism is a bishop, priest, or deacon. In certain cases, however, a layperson may also administer baptism if necessary. For example, if a person is in danger of death and no ordained minister is available, a layperson may baptize the person using the proper form and matter (water and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit").
Baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime sacrament, and it cannot be repeated. This is because the sacrament imprints an indelible mark on the soul, and once that mark has been made, it cannot be removed. However, if there are doubts about the validity of a person's baptism (if it wasn't performed with the Trinitarian formula), the Church may administer a conditional baptism.
When a child is brought to the church for baptism, the church requires the parents attend a pre-baptism class, so they have the proper understanding of the sacrament.
The Rite of Baptism of a child involves the following steps:
For adults who are seeking baptism, they usually enroll in the Order of Christian Initation and receive approximately 8 months of training. Their baptism occurs on the evening of the Solemn Easter Vigil.