Learning About Baptism
Can you remember when you became a Christian? Probably most of us will have to answer "no" to that question. The majority of Christians in this country were baptised as infants. Of course, many people who have been baptised do not consider themselves Christians or, at least, they think of themselves as simply nominal Christians, usually at times of birth, marriage and burial.
What does this tell us about Baptism? Does it mean that our baptism was:
• Joining a club?
• An insurance policy against limbo or nothingness?
• A family ceremony to please relations?
• The planting of a seed of faith?
• An entry requirement for claiming our Catholic inheritance in admission to a Catholic school, etc?
• A traditional naming ceremony?
Our Baptism may well have been based on any or all of these points - many Baptisms are. And, like all things in life, these reasons for Baptism have a certain validity for some people and certain times. After that, Baptism sinks into old photograph albums, school-time experiences and family history. Baptism becomes simply a misty memory. A misty memory of human activity, hopes, dreams and expectations. And like all human activity there is only a limited and passing value. Nothing stays the same in this life - except God and his deep love for us.
The Gift of New Life in Baptism
It is the initiation, the beginning of a process which reaches fulfilment with Confirmation and the Eucharist Baptism is God's token to us of his great love - it's a love token. In all sacraments faith carries us forward to the sacrament, but when we are infants it is the faith of our parents which carries us to the sacrament. It follows then that to fulfil the true meaning of the sacrament and to achieve the authenticity of the sign of Baptism, there must be continuing teaching and example of living faith. If this doesn't happen, although the sacrament is valid, the significance of it is prevented from having its full effect. It is easy to see then that what happens after Baptism is vitally important if we are to experience the fulfilment of the promise of this fundamental sacrament.
A Partner in God's Creative Plan
By parenting a child you have already co-operated with God's creative plan. This creative partnership has begun with the birth of your child and continues throughout your child's growth and development. Just as God has gifted you with the physical creation of your child, so too God will lead you in faith in the spiritual creation and development of your child.
What Difference Does Baptism Make?
At Baptism, we are initiated into God's family. As with most things in life, being baptised won't necessarily make much difference to us unless there is further input. Being baptised is the beginning of something - it is not an isolated event or a magic moment which acts like a good luck charm for life. Jesus Christ asks us to be baptised so that parents, godparents and God can work together in a creative partnership throughout the crucial years ahead as we grow to maturity.
For the first nine months of life a baby lives in the womb totally dependent on its mother for life and nourishment. After birth a baby continues to be dependent on its mother and the immediate family for continuing care for many years until he or she is mature enough to live as an adult.
A child/infant only grows and will only continue growing as long as the care, protection and guidance needed to reach successful maturity continues to be given. In the same way "those newly baptised" will only grow and continue to grow as Christians if there is support, example and teaching throughout childhood and adolescence. By bringing their child to be baptised, parents are giving a sign to the world that they and God are indeed partners working together for the complete development of their child - body and soul. As with other aspects of growing up, if support and encouragement is not given or withdrawn too early, permanent immaturity is the result. It's not hard to spot that amongst ourselves as Christians.
Our Faith Makes A Creative Difference
It's very difficult to be a member of a family if you never have any contact with other members of the family. And it's very unreasonable to expect anyone to bring up a child as a Christian if they're not trying to live as a Christian themselves.
For these reasons, the Church is more concerned than ever today that parents who ask for their child to be baptised also understand what is involved and understand what their commitment and responsibilities will be concerning the growing faith of their child. It is unrealistic to expect a child to grow in knowledge and love of God if neither parent practises their faith.
Often parents ask for Baptism for their baby because they think it's a nice celebration or the family or grandparents say that the baby must be baptised. It may be that they think of Baptism as a special kind of blessing which will safeguard the child. All these reasons are very understandable, but they have nothing to do with Baptism. As has been said, it is the faith of the parents which brings a child to church. Children are baptised on the strength of believing and practising Christians. In Baptism they are reborn and are called to live within the Christian community. Baptism brings them into this family of God. Being part of a family means growing up in the ways of that family. It means belonging, learning, sharing, in a certain way of life. That is the meaning of Baptism; it's a sign of the beginning of life as a Christian.
What is the point of baptising a child if he or she will not be able to grow and develop within the family of God? If parents are not practising their faith, they cannot be expected to be able or willing to pass it on to their child. And it is unfair and unreasonable to tie any child to a Church and way of life to which they will] have no real attachment other than being bound by certain church laws as an adult. Our faith is a creative relationship with God, not a set of rules.
The faith of parents and godparents then is crucial in infant Baptism.
The Creativity of God - Baptism is Your Invitation
God created you with great love. He wanted you to exist, he wanted you to be a part of his creative life. Since your Baptism, your beginning of life in and with Christ, you may have lost sight of or perhaps forgotten God's creativity in your life. Whatever has happened to you, whatever the quality of your relationship with the Church and with other Christians, God continues to invite you to share in his creativity.
Prepare for Baptism
If you have just had a baby, or are expecting one, the Parish community of the Camberley and Bagshot Catholic Parish offers you their congratulations.
No doubt you have been making preparations to give your child a warm welcome into your family and, as a gift from God, your child should also be welcomed into the family of the Church. This welcome is what is celebrated in the sacrament of Baptism.
Baptism is a sign of God's love for us. For Christians it is the way in which we are welcomed into the community or family of the Church. As Baptism is a welcome into our community, we have a baptismal preparation programme to help parents prepare to celebrate the sacrament. This consists of three evening preparation sessions attended by parents, catechists, clergy and, wherever possible, the godparents, plus a Rite of Welcome at one of our Sunday Masses. Godparents have an important responsibility and it is beneficial for them to attend the meetings to find out about the role of a godparent (for this reason we strongly suggest that at least one godparent is reasonably local to your family).
As a Baptism is an important event for the whole community, it will be celebrated on the fourth Sunday of the month as part of a community gathering. Sometimes this may take place during the Mass which your family normally attends or in the afternoon at a service shared by a number of families.
PLEASE PAY SPECIAL NOTE TO THE CHURCH'S LAW CONCERNING INFANT BAPTISM
"For an infant to be baptised lawfully it is required that there is a well-founded hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic religion. If such hope is truly lacking, the baptism is to be deferred and the parents advised of the reason for this." (canon 868)
An indication of such goodwill would be your attendance at Sunday Mass for at least six months prior to the date of Baptism.
Start Planning your Baby's Baptism Now!
By thinking about your baby's Baptism and getting in touch now, you are giving yourself a chance to sort out in good time any difficulties or anxieties you might have.
• If you've been out of touch for a while.
• If your partner is not a Catholic .
• If you are a single parent .
• If you're not sure about Baptism .
Don't worry! We look forward to hearing from you and can discuss with you any action needed on your part before Baptism takes place.