Extracts from the Instruction on Infant Baptism
Approved by His Holiness Pope John Paul II October 20, 1980
1. Pastoral work with regard to infant Baptism was greatly assisted by the promulgation of the new Ritual, prepared in accordance with the directives of the Second Vatican Council. The pace of change in society, however, is making it difficult for the young to be brought up in the Faith and to persevere in it, and the resulting problems encountered by Christian parents and pastors have not been completely eliminated.
2. Many parents are distressed to see their children abandoning the Faith and no longer receiving the sacraments, in spite of their own efforts to give them a Christian upbringing, and some pastors are asking themselves whether they should not be stricter before admitting infants to Baptism. Some think it better to delay the Baptism of children until the completion of a catechumenate of greater or less duration, while others are asking for a re-examination of the teaching on the necessity of Baptism, at least for infants, and wish the celebration of the sacrament to be put off until such an age when an individual can make a personal commitment, perhaps even until the beginning of adult life.
22. … It can happen that, when a child grows up, it will reject the obligations derived from its Baptism. Although its parents may be hurt as a result, they should not reproach themselves for having had the child baptized and giving it a Christian upbringing as was their right and their duty. In spite of appearances, the seeds of faith sown in the childs soul may one day come to life again, and the parents will contribute to this by their patience and love, by their prayers and by the authentic witness of their own faith.
25. A final criticism of infant Baptism would have it that the practice comes from a pastoral usage lacking missionary impetus and concerned more with administering a sacrament than with stirring up faith and fostering commitment to spreading the Gospel. It is asserted that, by retaining infant Baptism, the Church is yielding to the temptation of numbers and social establishment, and that she is encouraging the maintenance of a magical concept of the sacraments, while she really ought to engage in missionary activity, bring the faith of Christians to maturity, foster their free conscious commitment, and consequently admit a number of stages in her sacramental pastoral practice.
26. Undoubtedly, the Churchs apostolate should aim at stirring up lively faith and fostering a truly Christian life; but the requirements of pastoral practice with regard to administering the sacraments to adults cannot be applied unchanged to children who, as mentioned above, are baptized “in the faith of the Church.” Besides, we must not treat lightly the necessity of the sacrament: it is a necessity that has lost none of its importance and urgency, especially when what is at stake is ensuring that the child receives the infinite blessing of eternal life.
With regard to preoccupation with numbers, if this preoccupation is properly understood it is not a temptation or an evil for the Church but a duty and a blessing. The Church, described by St. Paul as Christs “body” and His “fullness,” is the visible sacrament of Christ in the world, with the mission of extending to everyone the sacramental link between her and her glorified Savior. Accordingly, she cannot fail to wish to give to everyone, children no less than adults, the first and basic sacrament of Baptism.
If it is understood in this way, the practice of infant Baptism is truly evangelical, since it has the force of witness, manifesting Gods initiative and the gratuitous character of the love with which He surrounds our lives: “not that we loved God but that he loved us…. We love, because he first loved us.” Even in the case of adults, the demands that the reception of Baptism involves should not make us forget that “he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.”
Part I Introduction and Reception of the Child
· The Parents are welcomed by the Presider at the door.
· Dialogue takes place between Presider and the Parents regarding the child’s name and their understanding of what they are taking on.
· Godparents are included in this dialogue.
· Presider welcomes the child by name and makes the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead, as do the parents, and optionally the godparents too. Then all then proceed to their seats.
Part II Celebrating God’s Word
The Rite suggests choosing one or two short readings from the following list:
Exodus 17:3-7: Water from the rock
Ezekiel36:24-28: Clean water, a new heart, a renewed spirit
Ezekiel47:1-9, 12: The water of salvation
Romans 6:3-5: Baptism: a sharing in Christs death and resurrection
Romans 8:28-32: We have become more perfectly like Gods own Son.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13: Baptized in one Spirit to form one body
Galatians 3:26-28: Now that you have been baptized you have put on Christ.
Ephesians 4:1-6: One lord, one faith, one baptism
1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10: A chosen race, a royal priesthood
Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
Psalm 27: The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Psalm 34: Come to him and receive his light.
Matthew 22:35-40: The first and most important commandment
Matthew 28:18-20: Christ sends his apostles to teach and baptize.
Mark 1:9-11: The baptism of Jesus;
Mark 10: 13 -16: Jesus loves children
Mark 12:28-34: Love God with all your heart;
John 3:1-6: The meeting with Nicodemus
John 4:5 -14: Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman.
John 6:44-47: Eternal life through belief in Jesus;
Jn. 7:37-39: Streams of living water
John 9:1-7: Jesus heals a blind man who believes in him.
John 15:1-11: Union with Christ, the true vine
John 19:31-35: The death of Christ, the witness of John the apostle
Part III The Prayer of Exorcism before Baptism
· This is the prayer that frees the child from original sin to become a temple of the Holy Spirit.
· The child is anointed with the oil of catechumens, and therefore ready for Baptism.
Part IV Celebration of the Sacrament
· All go to the Baptismal Font
· Prayer over the Baptismal Water
· Renunciation of sin and profession of faith by the parents and godparents
· Baptism of the child
· Anointing with Chrism
· Clothing with the garment
· The lighting of the Baptismal Candle
Part V Concluding Rite
· The Lord’s prayer
· Special blessing on the mother and father.
The Ministry of the Baptism Team
The Origin of the Baptism Team
¨ Initiation is the Church’s mission, the mission of every Christian.
¨ Baptism Teams are commissioned and sent, they are given authority for their ministry, so they need not be afraid.
¨ Each Diocese and parish needs to flesh out its approach to this ministry.
A Plan of Action
¨ Some parishes send a letter in reply to the family’s request informing them of the procedure – regarding visits, classes, dates, etc. In some cases it is signed by the parish priest.
¨ A visit to the family is arranged by phone. The convenience of the family is paramount. The visit can be very short, but needs to be friendly.
¨ Bring the information the family will need regarding dates for future meetings ie. with other parents, and some attractive but useful literature should be left with the family to be read preferably before the Baptism.
¨ The gathering to which they are invited is for the purpose of fellowship and catechesis. Discussion around the parents’ understanding of what they are asking for their child and the commitment they are making to their child as well as the introduction to the liturgy are central. But it is also the opportunity for parents to get to know others in the parish community.
¨ A tour of the church building and the symbolic nature of the journey from the door to the altar can be arranged and incorporated into the gathering. The location of the toilets should be pointed out.
¨ In summary the Baptism Team is called to reach out and empower the parents in their role as Christian Parents.