“The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify people, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to worship God,” says a document from the Second Vatican Council. While we can’t see holiness with our eyes, it is easy to see the happiness the sacrament of baptism brings to parents, godparents, families and parish communities. Children are baptized in the Church every week, but the event never fails to bring delight to the community, for it reminds us of God’s greatest gift to us”: ne life. Whether the infant cries, coos, or sleeps right through his or her baptism, the sacrament’s spiritual effects are the same: forgiveness of sin and new life in Christ. These effects bring grace to both the one baptized and, to a different degree, to his or her community of faith.
It is important for Catholics to know why we need salvation and how Christ, in his paschal mystery, brings it about. It is the core of our faith that every person seeking baptism should understand and accept. But how do infants grasp such profound spiritual realities? The simple answer is, they don’t. Infants cannot understand and accept these realities, so their parents and godparents act for them in requesting baptism.
The baptism of infants points up an important reality about baptism itself and the grace it imparts. We do nothing to earn our salvation–it is a free, unmerited gift from God through Jesus Christ.
There is no better way to renew our own Christin commitment than by witnessing the baptism of another.
First the child is anointed with oil of chrism. This wonderfully fragrant oil symbolizes the new Christian’s union with Christ, the Messiah, (“anointed one”) Then the child dons a white garment, symbolizing their new life–free from original sin–and their future responsibility to keep free from the stain of sin. After this, the parents and godparents receive a lighted candle, embracing their duty to keep the flame of faith alive for the child. Finally, the minister makes a prayer of opening over the child’s ear and mouth, signing them with the cross so that, following their baptism they may hear God’s word and share it with others. The Rite of Baptism ends with the Lord’s Prayer said by all and a special blessing over the parents, the child, and all those gathered.