Baptism is the first of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. Through baptism, a person becomes a member of the Catholic Church. The sacrament of baptism is the rite of initiation into the Christian community.
Anyone who has not already been baptized can receive the sacrament in the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, "Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is able to be baptized" (paragraph 1246). Baptism leaves a permanent mark on the soul; therefore, there is no reason for a person to be re-baptized. There is no age restriction for baptism.
The Sign of the Cross is traced on the forehead of the one being baptized. This ritual action expresses that the mystery of the cross is at the heart of our faith.
The immersion in water (or pouring on of water) of the one being baptized reminds us that we die with Jesus to conquer sin and rise with him so we might enter into new life. In this action we are reminded of how Moses led the Hebrews in their escape from Egypt and how he parted the waters of the Red Sea as the gateway to liberation, away from slavery and into the Promised Land. We also recall Jesus’ death and resurrection, which free us from sin and bring us into a new way of living. Many new or remodeled churches have the baptismal font near the main entrance to symbolize that we all enter the Church through the waters of baptism.
The words of baptism, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” are spoken while the water is poured or the one to be baptized is immersed. These words reveal that God in the Trinity is both the source of life and our life’s goal.
The newly baptized is anointed with sacred oil to signify that the Holy Spirit dwells within the heart of this new Christian. It’s also a sign of being anointed to a mission to live and love as Jesus lived.
A white garment reflects that in baptism we “put on Christ,” taking our new and truest identity as a son or daughter of God.
A baptismal candle, lit from the Easter candle, represents the one true light of Christ, a light to guide the new believer throughout his or her life.
Baptism is to be conferred either by immersion in or by pouring of water (can. 854).
Apart from a case of necessity, the proper place of baptism is a church. As a rule an adult is to be baptized in his or her parish church and an infant in the parish church of the parents unless a just cause suggests otherwise (can. 857). The place of baptism does not affect the validity of baptism.
The best way to start the process is to contact your local parish. It is likely that the parish requires a baptism preparation class or classes for parents and possibly godparents. Attending these classes facilitates meeting other parents in the same process and learning more about the sacrament of baptism. For a list of parishes and their locations, click here.
If an adult wishes to be baptized in the Catholic Church, but has never been baptized into any Christian denomination, he will be invited to follow the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults — the formal program to initiate unbaptized persons into the Catholic Church.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, often called RCIA, is the process by which adults come fully into communion with the Catholic Church. The process includes a period of preparation before receiving the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. Anyone looking to make this journey into the Catholic Church should visit their local parish.