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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ . . . Baptism: Putting On Christ

December 3, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 5

“Have you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit”? A Pentecostal Protestant asked me that a few years ago, in Australia. I just replied, “Yes, I did, when I was a baby.” For some reason, he did not quite like my reply, and proceeded to lecture me on the new baptism of the Holy Spirit, as if there were more than one type of Baptism instituted by Jesus Christ.
Baptism (sometimes called “christening”) is simply the sacrament which makes us Christians and children of God. We are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (and yes, the Third Person of the Trinity is there, too. There is no baptism of the Holy Spirit alone).
Baptism is given by pouring water on the head of the person to be baptized while reciting the words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The sacrament may also be conferred by immersing the person’s body three times in the water, or at least of the head, as was the common practice in the early Church.
Baptism can be both solemn and private. Solemn Baptism is Baptism accompanied by all the ceremonies prescribed by the Church. And the ceremonies are very beautiful. Private Baptism consists of the bare essentials, that is, the pouring of water and the recital of the proper words.
Solemn Baptism is given in a church. Private Baptism, which is given in an emergency or in the absence of a Catholic minister, may be given anywhere. After a private Baptism, if the opportunity arises, the other ceremonies are “supplied” by a Catholic minister in a church. The Baptism itself, of course, is not repeated.
And the ceremonies? At an infant Baptism in the Latin Rite, after the preliminary rites, the prayer of exorcism is said over the infant (yes, an exorcism, because original sin is the “DNA of the Devil,” so to speak). Then the child is anointed on the breast with the Oil of Catechumens. The baptismal water is blessed, if it has not been already blessed. Then the parents and godparents, on behalf of the child, renounce Satan and sin, and profess the faith.
After the Baptism itself, the child is anointed on the crown of the head with sacred chrism, clothed with a white garment as a sign of having “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27), and his parents and sponsors are presented with a candle lit from the Easter candle.
The ephphetha prayer is said over the baby’s ears and mouth (“Be opened,” Mark 7:31-37), and the mother and father are blessed by the ordained minister.
Next time you attend a solemn Baptism, pay attention to the ceremonies, as they enhance the grand moment when a creature of God becomes a child of God.
We have already learned that a sacrament is composed of three elements: minister, matter, and form. The ordinary minister of the solemn Baptism is a priest or a deacon.
But in a private Baptism, the sacrament can be lawfully conferred in case of necessity by any person — man, woman, or a child who has reached the age of reason.
Since whoever baptizes must have the explicit intention of doing what the Church requires to be done, it follows that he or she must possess the use of reason. Of course, it is preferable to have a Catholic perform the Baptism, but anyone of any religion or even of no religion can do so validly — provided that the person intends to do what the Church wants him to do.
When can a private Baptism be conferred? The private Baptism can be conferred in case of necessity. The next question is naturally this: And when does case of necessity arise? The case of necessity arises under two specific circumstances: a) when there is immediate danger of death for the unbaptized person; or b) when, in the absence of a proper minister, solemn Baptism cannot be given without difficulty or long delay.
What is the biblical foundation of Baptism? We have to consult the New Testament, naturally, to answer this question.
Jesus instructs His apostles, saying, “baptize . . . in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Unfortunately, people who believe in the heresy of Sola Scriptura assert that there is also a second type of baptism, which is supposedly conferred “in the name of Jesus Christ.” They take this idea from Acts 2:38, 10:48, when Baptism is mentioned to be conferred “in the name of Jesus Christ.”
They completely miss the point, because the passages do not mean that the apostles said: “I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ!” The phrase “in the name of Christ” was a term for Baptism, used by the early Christians to distinguish the Baptism instituted by Christ from the Baptism instituted by St. John the Baptist.
This is just another example of the danger posed by the heresy that encourages every Tom, Dick, and Harriet to read the Bible and make his or her own private interpretations, according to their doctrinal preferences. Chaos is the result. But I digress.
Why are sponsors required for Baptism? The Church requires that, if possible, at least one sponsor or godparent be present at solemn Baptism; also, at private Baptism, if a suitable person can be easily found. The Church permits the presence of two godparents, one male and one female, but no more than two. The purpose of having sponsors or “godparents” is to make a profession of faith in the name of the child being baptized, or adult being baptized, during the ceremony.
But their obligations do not end at the baptismal font: From then on, it is their duty to watch over the spiritual formation in the faith of their spiritual child, to see that he is instructed in all the duties of the Christian life and fulfill the promises which were made of him at Baptism.
Of course, parents must ensure that the sponsors of their child are practicing Catholics. You cannot expect that an unbeliever will be involved in the spiritual formation of your child and do a good job. So, folks, if you are a sponsor of someone, remember your duties to help your godchild to grow in the knowledge and practice of the faith you professed on his or her behalf. If you do not intend to fulfill your obligation, it is better to decline accepting the honor of being a godparent.
Catholic Tradition encourages parents and godparents to see to it that the child is given at least one name taken from a saint of the Church. A patron saint provides a model of charity for the Christian and ensures the benefit of that saint’s prayer from Heaven.
Next week’s article: More on Baptism.

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. He is a militant pro-life writer and apologist, addressing live audiences and delivering talks on television, radio, and online. To date he has given over 2,500 presentations in 38 countries of the six continents. He is available to speak at Catholic events, both large and small, anywhere in the Free World, in four languages — English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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