The Catechism of Trent
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
Importance Of Instruction On Baptism
From what has been hitherto said on the Sacraments in general, we may judge
how necessary it is, to a proper understanding of the doctrines of the Christian
faith and to the practice of Christian piety, to know what the Catholic Church
proposes for our belief on each Sacrament in particular.
Whoever reads the Apostle carefully will unhesitatingly conclude that a
perfect knowledge of Baptism is particularly necessary to the faithful. For not
only frequently, but also in language the most energetic, in language full of
the Spirit of God, he renews the recollection of this mystery, declares its
divine character, and in it places before us the death, burial and Resurrection
of. our Lord as objects both of our contemplation and imitation.
Pastors, therefore, can never think that they have bestowed sufficient labor
and attention on the exposition of this Sacrament. Besides the Vigils of Easter
and Pentecost, days on which the Church used to celebrate this Sacrament with
the greatest devotion and special solemnity, and on which particularly,
according to ancient practice, its divine mysteries were to be explained,
pastors should also take occasion at other times to make it the subject of their
For this purpose a most convenient opportunity would seem to present itself
whenever a pastor, being about to administer this Sacrament, finds himself
surrounded by a considerable number of the faithful. On such occasions, it is
true, his exposition cannot embrace everything that regards Baptism; but it will
then be much easier to develop one or two points when the faithful
can contemplate with a pious and attentive mind the meaning of those things
which they hear and at the same time see it illustrated by the sacred ceremonies
of Baptism. Each person, reading a lesson of admonition in the person of him who
is receiving Baptism, will call to mind the promises by which he bound himself
to God when he was baptised, and will reflect whether his life and conduct have
been such as are promised by the profession of Christianity.
Names of this Sacrament
In order that the treatment of the subject. may be clear, we must explain the
nature and substance of Baptism, premising, however, an explanation of the word
The word baptism, as is well known, is of Greek derivation. Although used in
Sacred Scripture to express not only that ablution which forms part of the
Sacrament, but also every species of ablution, and sometimes, figuratively, to
express sufferings; yet it is employed by ecclesiastical writers to designate
not every sort of bodily ablution, but that which forms part of the Sacrament
and is administered with the prescribed form of words. In this sense the
Apostles very frequently make use of the word in accordance with the institution
of Christ the Lord.
This Sacrament the holy Fathers designate also by other names. St. Augustine
informs us that it was sometimes called the Sacrament of Faith, because by
receiving it we profess our faith in all the doctrines of Christianity.
By others it was termed Illumination, because by the faith which we profess
in Baptism the heart is illumined; for as the Apostle also says, alluding to the
time of Baptism, Call to mind the former days, wherein, being illumined, you
endured a great fight of afflictions Chrysostom, in his sermon to the baptised,
calls it a purgation, because through it we purge away the old leaven, that we
may become a new paste. He also calls it a burial, a planting, and the cross of
Christ, the reasons for all which appellations may be gathered from the Epistle
to the Romans.
St. Denis calls it the beginning of the most holy Commandments, for this
obvious reason, that Baptism is, as it were, the gate through which we enter
into the fellowship of the Christian life, and begin thenceforward to obey the
Commandments. So much should be briefly explained concerning the name (of this
Definition Of Baptism
With regard to the definition of Baptism although many can be given from
sacred writers, nevertheless that which may be gathered from the words of our
Lord recorded in John, and of the Apostle to the Ephesians, appears the most
appropriate and suitable. Unless, says our Lord, a man be born again of water
and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; and, speaking of
the Church, the Apostle says, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of
life. Thus it follows that Baptism may be rightly and accurately defined: The
Sacrament of regeneration by water in the word. By nature we are born from Adam
children of wrath, but by Baptism we are regenerated in Christ, children of
mercy. For He gave power to men to be made the sons of God, to them that believe
in his name, who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of
the will of man, but of God.
Constituent Elements Of Baptism
But define Baptism as we may, the faithful are to be informed that this
Sacrament consists of ablution, accompanied necessarily, according to the
institution of our Lord, by certain solemn words. This is the uniform doctrine
of the holy Fathers, as is proved by the following most explicit testimony of
St. Augustine: The word is joined to the element, and it becomes a Sacrament.
It is all the more necessary to impress this on the minds of the faithful
lest they fall into the common error of thinking that the baptismal water,
preserved in the sacred font, constitutes the Sacrament. The Sacrament of
Baptism can be said to exist only when we actually apply the water to someone by
way of ablution, while using the words appointed by our Lord.
Matter of Baptism
Now since we said above, when treating of the Sacraments in general, that
every Sacrament consists of matter and form, it is therefore necessary that
pastors point out what constitutes each of these in Baptism. The matter, then,
or element of this Sacrament, is any sort of natural water, which is simply and
without qualification commonly called water, be it sea water, river water, water
from a pond, well or fountain.
Testimony Of Scripture Concerning The Matter Of Baptism
For the Saviour taught that unless a man be born again of water and the Holy
Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The Apostle also says that the
Church was cleansed by the laver of water; and in the Epistle of St. John we
read these words: There are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit, and
the water, and the blood. Scripture affords other proofs which establish the
When, however, John the Baptist says that the Lord will come who will baptise
in the Holy Ghost, and in fire, that is by no means to be understood of the
matter of Baptism; but should be applied either to the interior operation of the
Holy Ghost, or at least to the miracle performed on the day of Pentecost, when
the Holy Ghost descended on the Apostles in the form of fire, as was foretold by
Christ our Lord in these words: John indeed baptised with water, but you shall
be baptised with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.
The same was also signified by the Lord both by figures and by prophecies, as
we know from Holy Scripture. According to the Prince of the Apostles in his
first Epistle, the deluge which cleansed the world because the wickedness of men
was great on the earth, and all the thought of their heart was bent upon evil,
was a figure and image of this water. To omit the cleansing of Naaman the
Syrian, and the admirable virtue of the pool of Bethsaida, and many similar
types, manifestly symbolic of this mystery, the passage through the Red Sea,
according to St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, was typical of this
With regard to the predictions, the waters to which the Prophet Isaias so
freely invites all that thirst, and those which Ezechiel in spirit saw issuing
from the Temple, and also the fountain which Zachary foresaw, open to the house
of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: for the washing of the sinner,
and of the unclean woman, were, no doubt, intended to indicate and express the
salutary waters of Baptism.
The propriety of constituting water the matter of Baptism, of the nature and
efficacy of which it is at once expressive, St. Jerome, in his Epistle to
Oceanus, proves by many arguments.
Upon this subject pastors can teach in the first place that water, which is
always at hand and within the reach of all, was the fittest matter of a
Sacrament which is necessary to all for salvation. In the next place water is
best adapted to signify the effect of Baptism. It washes away uncleanness, and
is, therefore, strikingly illustrative of the virtue and efficacy of Baptism,
which washes away the stains of sin. We may also add that, like water which
cools the body, Baptism in a great measure extinguishes the fire of
Chrism Added To Water For Solemn Baptism
But it should be noted that while in case of necessity simple water unmixed
with any other ingredient is sufficient for the matter of this Sacrament, yet
when Baptism is administered in public with solemn ceremonies the Catholic
Church, guided by Apostolic tradition, has uniformly observed the practice of
adding holy chrism which, as is clear, more fully signifies the effect of
Baptism. The people should also be taught that although it may sometimes be
doubtful whether this or that water be genuine, such as the perfection of the
Sacrament requires, it can never be a subject of doubt that the only matter from
which the Sacrament of Baptism can be formed is natural water.
Form of Baptism
Having carefully explained the matter, which is one of the two parts of which
Baptism consists, pastors must show equal diligence in explaining the form,
which is the other essential part. In the explanation of this Sacrament a
necessity of increased care and study arises, as pastors will perceive, from the
circumstance that the knowledge of so holy a mystery is not only in itself a
source of pleasure to the faithful, as is generally the case with regard to
religious knowledge, but also very desirable for almost daily practical use. As
we shall explain in its proper place, circumstances often arise where Baptism
requires to be administered by the laity, and most frequently by women; and it
therefore becomes necessary to make all the faithful, indiscriminately, well
acquainted with whatever regards the substance of this Sacrament.
Words Of The Form
Pastors, therefore, should teach, in clear, unambiguous language,
intelligible to every capacity, that the true and essential form of Baptism is:
I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
For so it was delivered by our Lord and Saviour when, as we read in St. Matthew
He gave to His Apostles the command: Going, . . . teach ye all nations:
baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
By the word baptising, the Catholic Church, instructed from above, most
justly understood that the form of the Sacrament should express the action of
the minister; and this takes place when he pronounces the words, I baptise
Besides the minister of the Sacrament, the person to be baptised and the
principal efficient cause of Baptism should be mentioned. The pronoun thee, and
the distinctive names of the Divine Persons are therefore added. Thus the
complete form of the Sacrament is expressed in the words already mentioned: I
baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Baptism is the work not of the Son alone, of whom St. John says, He it is
that baptizeth, but of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity together. By
saying, however, in the name, not in the names, we distinctly declare that in
the Trinity there is but one Nature and Godhead. The word name is here referred
not to the Persons, but to the Divine Essence, virtue and power, which are one
and the same in Three Persons.
Essential And NonEssential Words Of The Form
It is, however, to be observed that of the words contained in this form,
which we have shown to be the complete and perfect one, some are absolutely
necessary, so that the omission of them renders the valid administration of the
Sacrament impossible; while others on the contrary, are not so essential as to
affect its validity.
Of the latter kind is the word ego (I), the force of which is included in the
word baptizo (I baptise). Nay more, the Greek Church, adopting a different
manner of expressing the form, and being of opinion that it is unnecessary to
make mention of the minister, omits the pronoun altogether. The form universally
used in the Greek Church is: Let this servant of Christ be baptised in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It appears, however, from
the decision and definition of the Council of Florence, that those who use this
form administer the Sacraments validly, because the words sufficiently express
what is essential to the validity of Baptism, that is, the ablution which then
Baptism In The Name Of Christ
If at any time the Apostles baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
only, we can be sure they did so by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, in order,
in the infancy of the Church, to render their preaching more illustrious by the
name of Jesus Christ, and to proclaim more effectually His divine and infinite
power. If, however, we examine the matter more closely, we shall find that such
a form omits nothing which the Saviour Himself commands to be observed; for he
who mentions Jesus Christ implies the Person of the Father, by whom, and that of
the Holy Ghost, in whom, He was anointed.
And yet, the use of this form by the Apostles seems rather doubtful if we
accept the opinions of Ambrose and Basil, holy Fathers eminent for sanctity and
authority, who interpret baptism in the name of Jesus Christ to mean the Baptism
instituted by Christ our Lord, as distinguished from that of John, and who say
that the Apostles did not depart from the ordinary and usual form which
comprises the distinct names of the Three Persons. Paul also, in his Epistle to
the Galatians, seems to have expressed himself in a similar manner, when he
says: As many of you as have been baptised in Christ, have put on Christ,
meaning that they were baptised in the faith of Christ, but with no other form
than that which the same Saviour our Lord had commanded to be observed.
Administration of Baptism
What has been said on the matter and form, which are required for the essence
of the Sacrament, will be found sufficient for the instruction of the faithful;
but as in the administration of the Sacrament the legitimate manner of ablution
should also be observed, pastors should teach the doctrine of thispoint
They should briefly explain that, according to the common custom and practice
of the Church, Baptism may be administered in three ways, by
immersion, infusion or aspersion.
Whichever of these rites be observed, we must believe that Baptism is rightly
administered. For in Baptism water is used to signify the spiritual ablution
which it accomplishes, and on this account Baptism is called by the Apostle a
laver. Now this ablution is not more really accomplished by immersion, which was
for a considerable time the practice in the early ages of the Church, than by
infusion, which we now see in general use, or by aspersion, which there is
reason to believe was the manner in which Peter baptised, when on one day he
converted and gave Baptism to about three thousand souls.
It is a matter of indifference whether the ablution be performed once or
thrice. For it is evident from the Epistle of St. Gregory the Great to Leander
that Baptism was formerly and may still be validly administered in the Church in
either way. The faithful, however, should follow the practice of the particular
Church to which they belong.
Pastors should be particularly careful to observe that the baptismal ablution
is not to be applied indifferently to any part of the body, but principally to
the head, which is the seat of all the internal and external senses; and also
that he who baptises is to pronounce the sacramental words which constitute the
form, not before or after, but when performing the ablution.
Institution Of Baptism
When these things have been explained, it will also be expedient to teach and
remind the faithful that, in common with the other Sacraments, Baptism was
instituted by Christ the Lord. On this subject the pastor should frequently
teach and point out that there are two different periods of time which relate to
Baptism, one the period of its institution by the Redeemer; the
other, the establishment of the law regarding its reception.
Baptism Instituted At Christ's Baptism
With regard to the former, it is clear that this Sacrament was instituted by
our Lord when, having been baptised by John, He gave to water the power of
sanctifying. St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Augustine · testify that to water was
then. imparted the power of regenerating to spiritual life. In another place St.
Augustine says: From the moment that Christ is immersed in water, water washes
away all sins. And again: The Lord is baptised, not because He had need to be
cleansed, but in order that, by the contact of His pure flesh, He might purify
the waters and impart to them the power of cleansing.
A very strong argument to prove that Baptism was then instituted by our Lord
might be afforded by the fact the most Holy Trinity, in whose name Baptism is
conferred, manifested Its divine presence on that occasion. The voice of the
Father was heard, the Person of the Son was present, the Holy Ghost descended in
the form of a dove; and the heavens, into which we are enabled to enter by
Baptism, were thrown open.
Should anyone desire to know how our Lord has endowed water with a virtue so
great, so divine, this indeed transcends the power of the human understanding.
Yet this we can know, that when our Lord was baptised, water, by contact with
His most holy and pure body, was consecrated to the salutary use of Baptism, in
such a way, however, that, although instituted before the Passion, we must
believe that this Sacrament derives all its virtue and efficacy from the
Passion, which is the consummation, as it were, of all the actions of
Baptism Made Obligatory After Christ's Resurrection
The second period to be distinguished, that is, the time when the law of
Baptism was made, also admits of no doubt. Holy writers are unanimous in saying
that after the Resurrection of our Lord, when He gave to His Apostles the
command to go and teach all nations: baptising them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the law of Baptism became obligatory on
all who were to be saved.
This is inferred from the authority of the Prince of the Apostles when he
says: Who hath regenerated us into a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead;' and also from what Paul says of the Church: He delivered
himself up for it: that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water
in the word of life. By both Apostles the obligation of Baptism seems to be
referred to the time which followed the death of our Lord. Hence we can have no
doubt that the words of the Saviour: Unless a man be born again of water and the
Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, refer also to the same time
which was to follow after His Passion.
If, then, pastors explain these truths accurately, there can be no doubt that
the faithful will recognise the high dignity of this Sacrament and venerate it
with the most profound piety, particularly when they reflect that each of them
receives in Baptism by the interior operation of the Holy Ghost the same
glorious and most ample gifts which were so strikingly manifested by miracles at
the Baptism of Christ the Lord.
Were our eyes, like those of the servant of Eliseus, opened to see heavenly
things, who can be supposed so senseless as not to be lost in rapturous
admiration of the divine mysteries of Baptism ! When, therefore, the riches of
this Sacrament are unfolded to the faithful by the pastor, so as to enable them
to behold them, if not with the eyes of the body, yet with those of the soul
illumined by the light of faith, may we not anticipate similar results ?
The Ministers of Baptism
In the next place, it appears not only expedient, but necessary to say who
are ministers of this Sacrament; both in order that those to whom this office is
specially confided may study to perform its functions religiously and holily;
and that no one, outstepping, as it were, his proper limits, may unseasonably
take possession of, or arrogantly assume, what belongs to another; for, as the
Apostle teaches, order is to be observed in all things.
Bishops And Priests The Ordinary Ministers
The faithful, therefore, are to be informed that of those (who administer
Baptism) there are three gradations. Bishops and priests hold the first place.
To them belongs the administration of this Sacrament, not by any extraordinary
concession of power, but by right of office; for to them, in the persons of the
Apostles, was addressed the command of our Lord: Go, baptise. Bishops, it is
true, in order not to neglect the more weighty charge of instructing the
faithful, have generally left its administration to priests. But the authority
of the Fathers and the usage of the Church prove that priests exercise this
function by their own right, so much so that they may baptise even in the
presence of the Bishop. Ordained to consecrate the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament
of peace and unity, it was fitting that they be invested with power to
administer all those things which are required to enable others to participate
in that peace and unity. If, therefore, the Fathers have at any time said that
without the leave of the Bishop the priest has not the right to baptise, they
are to be understood to speak of that Baptism only which was administered on
certain days of the year with solemn ceremonies.
Deacons Extraordinary Ministers Of Baptism
Next among the ministers are deacons, for whom, as numerous decrees of the
holy Fathers attest it is not lawful without the permission of the Bishop or
priest to administer this Sacrament.
Ministers In Case Of Necessity
Those who may administer Baptism in case of necessity, but without its solemn
ceremonies, hold the last place; and in this class are included all, even the
laity, men and women, to whatever sect they may belong. This office extends in
case of necessity, even to Jews, infidels and heretics, provided, however, they
intend to do what the Catholic Church does in that act of her ministry. These
things were established by many decrees of the ancient Fathers and Councils; and
the holy Council of Trent denounces anathema against those who dare to say, that
Baptism, even when administered by heretics, in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church
does, is not true Baptism.
And here indeed let us admire the supreme goodness and wisdom of our Lord.
Seeing the necessity of this Sacrament for all, He not only instituted water,
than which nothing can be more common, as its matter, but also placed its
administration within the power of all. In its administration, however, as we
have already observed, all are not allowed to use the solemn ceremonies; not
that rites and ceremonies are of higher dignity, but because they are less
necessary than the Sacrament.
Let not the faithful, however, imagine that this office is given
promiscuously to all, so as to do away with the propriety of observing a certain
precedence among those who are its ministers. When a man is present a woman
should not baptise; an ecclesiastic takes precedence over a layman, and a priest
over a simple ecclesiastic. Midwives, however, when accustomed to its
administration, are not to be found fault with if sometimes, when a man is
present who is unacquainted with the manner of its administration, they perform
what may otherwise appear to belong more properly to men.
The Sponsors at Baptism
Besides the ministers who, as just explained, confer Baptism, another class
of persons, according to the most ancient practice of the Church, is admitted to
assist at the baptismal font. In former times these were commonly called by
sacred writers receivers, sponsors or sureties, and are now called godfathers
and godmothers. As this is an office pertaining almost to all the laity, pastors
should explain it with care, so that the faithful may understand what is chiefly
necessary for its proper performance.
Why Sponsors Are Required At Baptism
In the first instance it should be explained why at Baptism, besides those
who administer the Sacrament, godparents and sponsors are also required. The
propriety of the practice will at once appear to all if they recollect that
Baptism is a spiritual regeneration by which we are born children of God; for of
it St. Peter says: As newborn infants, desire the rational milk without guile.
As, therefore, every one, after his birth, requires a nurse and instructor by
whose assistance and attention he is brought up and formed to learning and
useful knowledge, so those, who, by the waters of Baptism, begin to live a
spiritual life should be entrusted to the fidelity and prudence of some one from
whom they may imbibe the precepts of the Christian religion and may be brought
up in all holiness, and thus grow gradually in Christ, until, with the Lord's
help, they at length arrive at perfect manhood.
This necessity must appear still more imperative, if we recollect that
pastors, who are charged with the public care of parishes have not sufficient
time to undertake the private instruction of children in the rudiments of
Antiquity Of This Law
Concerning this very ancient practice we have this noteworthy testimony of
St. Denis: It occurred to our divine leaders (so he called the Apostles), and
they in their wisdom ordained that infants should be introduced (into the
Church) in this holy manner that their natural parents should deliver them to
the care of some one well skilled in divine things, as to a master under whom,
as a spiritual father and guardian of his salvation in holiness, the child
should lead the remainder of his life. The same doctrine is confirmed by the
authority of Hyginus.
Affinity Contracted By Sponsors
The Church, therefore, in her wisdom has ordained that not only the person
who baptises contracts a spiritual affinity with the person baptised, but also
the sponsor with the godchild and its natural parents, so that between all these
marriage cannot be lawfully contracted, and if contracted, it is null and void.
Duties Of Sponsors
The faithful are also to be taught the duty of sponsors; for such is the
negligence with which this office is treated in the Church that only the bare
name of the function remains, while none seem to have the least idea of its
sanctity. Let all sponsors, then, at all times recollect that they are strictly
bound by this law to exercise a constant vigilance over their spiritual
children, and carefully to instruct them in the maxims of a Christian life; so
that these may show themselves throughout life to be what their sponsors
promised in the solemn ceremony.
On this subject let us hear the words of St. Denis. Speaking in the person of
the sponsor he says: I promise, by my constant exhortations to induce this
child, when he comes to a knowledge of religion, to renounce every thing opposed
(to his Christian calling) and to profess and perform the sacred promises which
he now makes.
St. Augustine also says: I most especially admonish you, men and women, who
have acquired godchildren through Baptism, to consider that you stood as
sureties before God, for those whom you received at the sacred font. Indeed it
preeminently becomes every man, who undertakes any office, to be indefatigable
in the discharge of its duties; and he who promised to be the teacher and
guardian of another should never allow to be deserted him whom he once received
under his care and protection as long as he knows the latter to stand in need of
Speaking of this same duty of sponsors, St. Augustine sums up in a few words
the lessons of instruction which they are bound to impart to their spiritual
children. They ought, he says, to admonish them to observe chastity, love
justice, cling to charity; and above all they should teach them the Creed, the
Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the rudiments of the Christian
Who May Not Be Sponsors
It is easy, therefore, to decide who are inadmissible to this holy
guardianship, that is, those who are unwilling to discharge its duties with
fidelity, or who cannot do so with care and accuracy.
Wherefore, besides the natural parents, who, to mark the great difference
that exists between this spiritual and the carnal bringing up of youth, are not
permitted to undertake this charge, heretics, Jews and infidels are on no
account to be admitted to this office, since their thoughts and efforts are
continually employed in darkening by falsehood the true faith and in subverting
all Christian piety.
Number Of Sponsors
The number of sponsors is limited by the Council of Trent to one godfather or
one godmother, or at most, to a godfather and a godmother; because a number of
teachers may confuse the order of discipline and instruction, and also because
it was necessary to prevent the multiplication of affinities which would impede
a wider diffusion of society by means of lawful marriage.
Necessity of Baptism
If the knowledge of what has been hitherto explained be, as it is, of highest
importance to the faithful, it is no less important to them to learn that the
law of Baptism, as established by our Lord, extends to all, so that unless they
are regenerated to God through the grace of Baptism, be their parents Christians
or infidels, they are born to eternal misery and destruction. Pastors,
therefore, should often explain these words of the Gospel: Unless a man be born
again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Infant Baptism: It's Necessity
That this law extends not only to adults but also to infants and children,
and that the Church has received this from Apostolic tradition, is confirmed by
the unanimous teaching and authority of the Fathers.
Besides, it is not to be supposed that Christ the Lord would have withheld
the Sacrament and grace of Baptism from children, of whom He said: Suffer the
little children, and forbid them not to come to me; for the kingdom of heaven is
for such; ° whom also He embraced, upon whom He imposed hands, to whom He gave
Moreover, when we read that an entire family was baptised by Paul, it is
sufficiently obvious that the children of the family must also have been
cleansed in the saving font.
Circumcision, too, which was a figure of Baptism, affords strong argument in
proof of this practice. That children were circumcised on the eighth day is
universally known. If then circumcision, made by hand, in despoiling of the body
of the flesh, was profitable to children, it is clear that Baptism, which is the
circumcision of Christ, not made by hand, is also profitable to them.
Finally, as the Apostle teaches, if by one man's offence death reigned
through one, much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and
of justice, shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ. If, then, through the
transgression of Adam, children inherit original sin, with still stronger reason
can they attain through Christ our Lord grace and justice that they may reign in
life. This, however, cannot be effected otherwise than by Baptism.
Pastors, therefore, should inculcate the absolute necessity of administering
Baptism to infants, and of gradually forming their tender minds to piety by
education in the Christian religion. For according to these admirable words of
the wise man: A young man according to his way, even when he is old, he will not
depart from it.
Infants Receive The Graces Of Baptism
It may not be doubted that in Baptism infants receive the mysterious gifts of
faith. Not that they believe with the assent of the mind, but they are
established in the faith of their parents, if the parents profess the true
faith; if not--to use the words of St. Augustine--then in that of the universal
society of the saints; for they are rightly said to be presented for Baptism by
all those to whom their initiation in that sacred rite is a source of joy, and
by whose charity they are united to the communion of the Holy Ghost.
Baptism Of Infants Should Not Be Delayed
The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be
brought to the church, as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn
Baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism,
we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to
remain without the grace of the Sacrament longer than necessity may require,
particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of
Baptism Of Adults
With regard to those of adult age who enjoy the perfect use of reason,
persons, namely, born of infidel parents, the practice of the primitive Church
points out that a different manner of proceeding should be followed. To them the
Christian faith is to be proposed; and they are earnestly to be exhorted,
persuaded and invited to embrace it.
They Should Not Delay Their Baptism Unduly
If converted to the Lord God, they are then to be admonished not to defer the
Sacrament of Baptism beyond the time prescribed by the Church. For since it is
written, delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to
day, they are to be taught that in their regard perfect conversion consists in
regeneration by Baptism. Besides, the longer they defer Baptism, the longer are
they deprived of the use and graces of the other Sacraments, by which the
Christian religion is practised, since the other Sacraments are accessible
through Baptism only.
They are also deprived of the abundant fruits of Baptism, the waters of which
not only wash away all the stains and defilements of past sins, but also enrich
us with divine grace which enables us to avoid sin for the future and preserve
righteousness and innocence, which constitute the sum of a Christian life, as
all can easily understand.
Ordinarily They Are Not Baptised At Once
On adults, however, the Church has not been accustomed to confer the
Sacrament of Baptism at once, but has ordained that it be deferred for a certain
time. The delay is not attended with the same danger as in the case of infants,
which we have already mentioned; should any unforeseen accident make it
impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and
determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail
them to grace and righteousness.
Nay, this delay seems to be attended with some advantages. And first, since
the Church must take particular care that none approach this Sacrament through
hypocrisy and dissimulation, the intentions of such as seek Baptism, are better
examined and ascertained. Hence it is that we read in the decrees of ancient
Councils that Jewish converts to the Catholic faith, before admission to
Baptism, should spend some months in the ranks of the catechumens.
Furthermore, the candidate for Baptism is thus better instructed in the
doctrine of the faith which he is to profess, and in the practices of the
Christian life. Finally, when Baptism is administered to adults with solemn
ceremonies on the appointed days of Easter and Pentecost only greater religious
reverence is shown to the Sacrament.
In Case Of Necessity Adults May Be: Baptised At Once
Sometimes, however, when there exists a just and necessary cause, as in the
case of imminent danger of death, Baptism is not to be deferred, particularly if
the person to be baptised is well instructed in the mysteries of faith. This we
find to have been done by Philip, and by the Prince of the Apostles, when
without any delay, the one baptised the eunuch of Queen Candace; the other,
Cornelius, as soon as they expressed a wish to embrace the faith.
Dispositions for Baptism
The faithful are also to be instructed in the necessary dispositions for
Baptism. In the first place they must desire and intend to receive it; for as in
Baptism we all die to sin and resolve to live a new life, it is fit that it be
administered to those only who receive it of their own free will and accord; it
is to be forced upon none. Hence we learn from holy tradition that it has been
the invariable practice to administer Baptism to no individual without
previously asking him if he be willing to receive it. This disposition even
infants are presumed to have, since the will of the Church, which promises for
them, cannot be mistaken.
Insane, delirious persons who were once of sound mind and afterwards became
deranged, having in their present state no wish to be baptised, are not to be
admitted to Baptism, unless in danger of death. In such cases, if previous to
insanity they give intimation of a wish to be baptised, the Sacrament is to be
administered; without such indication previously given it is not to be
administered. The same rule is to be followed with regard to persons who are
But if they (the insane) never enjoyed the use of reason, the authority and
practice of the Church decide that they are to be baptised in the faith of the
Church, just as children are baptised before they come to the use of reason.
Besides a wish to be baptised, in order to obtain the grace of the Sacrament,
faith is also necessary. Our Lord and Saviour has said: He that believes and is
baptised shall be saved.
Another necessary condition is repentance for past sins, and a fixed
determination to avoid all sin in the future. Should anyone desire Baptism and
be unwilling to correct the habit of sinning, he should be altogether rejected.
For nothing is so opposed to the grace and power of Baptism as the intention and
purpose of those who resolve never to abandon sin.
Seeing that Baptism should be sought with a view to put on Christ and to be
united to Him, it is manifest that he who purposes to continue in sin should
justly be repelled from the sacred font, particularly since none of those things
which belong to Christ and His Church are to be received in vain, and since we
well understand that, as far as regards sanctifying and saving grace, Baptism is
received in vain by him who purposes to live according to the flesh, and not
according to the spirit. As far, however, as the Sacrament is concerned, if the
person who is rightly baptised intends to receive what the Church administers,
he without doubt validly receives the Sacrament.
Hence, to the vast multitude who, in compunction of heart, as the Scripture
says, asked him and the other Apostles what they should do, the Prince of the
Apostles answered: Do penance and be baptised every one of you; and in another
place he said: Be penitent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be
blotted out. Writing to the Romans, St. Paul also clearly shows that he who is
baptised should entirely die to sin; and he therefore admonishes us not to yield
our members as instruments of iniquity unto sin, but present ourselves to God,
as those who are alive from the dead.
Advantages To Be Derived From These Reflections
Frequent reflection upon these truths cannot fail, in the first place, to
fill the minds of the faithful with admiration for the infinite goodness of God,
who, uninfluenced by any other consideration than that of His mercy,
gratuitously bestowed upon us, undeserving as we are, a blessing so
extraordinary and divine as that of Baptism.
If in the next place they consider how spotless should be the lives of those
who have been made the objects of such munificence, they cannot fail to be
convinced of the special obligation imposed on every Christian to spend each day
of his life in such sanctity and fervour, as if on that very day he had received
the Sacrament and grace of Baptism.
Effects of Baptism
To inflame the minds of the faithful, however, with a zeal for true piety,
pastors will find no means more efficacious than an accurate exposition of the
effects of Baptism.
The effects of Baptism should be frequently explained, in order that the
faithful may be rendered more sensible of the high dignity to which they have
been raised, and may never suffer themselves to be cast down therefrom by the
snares or assaults of Satan.
First Effect Of Baptism: Remission Of Sin
They are to be taught, in the first place, that such is the admirable
efficacy of this Sacrament that it remits original sin and actual guilt, however
unthinkable its enormity may seem.
This was foretold long before by Ezechiel, through whom God said: I will pour
upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness. The
Apostle also, writing to the Corinthians, after having enumerated a long
catalogue of sins, adds: such you were, but you are washed, but you are
That such was at all times the doctrine handed down by holy Church is clear.
By the generation of the flesh, says St. Augustine in his book On the Baptism of
Infants, we contract original sin only; by the regeneration of the Spirit, we
obtain forgiveness not only of original, but also of actual sins. St. Jerome
also, writing to Oceanus, says: all sins are forgiven in Baptism.
To remove all further doubt on the subject, the Council of Trent, after other
Councils had defined this, declared it anew, pronouncing anathema against those
who should presume to think otherwise, or should dare to assert that although
sin is forgiven in Baptism, it is not entirely removed or totally eradicated,
but is cut away in such a manner as to leave its roots still fixed in the soul.
To use the words of the same holy Council, God hates nothing in those who are
regenerated; for there remains nothing deserving of condemnation in those who
are truly buried with Christ by Baptism unto death, "who walk not according to
the flesh" but putting off the old man, and putting on the new, who is created
according to God, become innocent, spotless, pure, upright, and beloved of
Concupiscence Which Remains After Baptism Is No Sin
We must confess, however, that concupiscence, or the fuel of sin, still
remains, as the Council declares in the same place. But concupiscence does not
constitute sin, for, as St. Augustine observes, in children who have been
baptised the guilt of concupiscence is removed, (the concupiscence itself)
remains for probation; and in another place he says: the guilt of concupiscence
is pardoned in Baptism, but its infirmity remains. For concupiscence which is
the effect of sin is nothing more than an appetite of the soul in itself
repugnant to reason. But if it is not accompanied by the consent of the will or
by negligence, it is very far from being sin.
When St. Paul says, I did not know concupiscence, if the law did not say:
Thou shalt not covet, he speaks not of concupiscence itself, but of the fault of
The same doctrine is taught by St. Gregory when he says: If there are any who
assert that in Baptism sin is but superficially effaced, what could be more
untrue than their statement? By the Sacrament of faith the soul, entirely freed
from sin, adheres to God alone. In proof of this doctrine he has recourse to the
testimony of our Saviour who says in St. John: He that is washed, needeth
not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly.
Further Proof Of The First Effect Of Baptism
Should anyone desire a striking figure and image (of the efficacy of Baptism)
let him consider the history of Naaman the Syrian leper, of whom the Scriptures
inform us that when he had washed seven times in the waters of the Jordan he was
so cleansed from his leprosy that his flesh became like the flesh of a child.
The remission of all sin, original and actual, is therefore the peculiar
effect of Baptism. That this was the object of its institution by our Lord and
Saviour is clearly stated by the Prince of the Apostles, to say nothing of other
testimonies, when he says: Do penance and be baptised every one of you, in the
name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.
The Second Effect Of Baptism: Remission Of All Punishment Due To
In Baptism not only is sin forgiven, but with it all the punishment due to
sin is mercifully remitted by God. To communicate the efficacy of the Passion of
Christ our Lord is an effect common to all the Sacraments; but of Baptism alone
does the Apostle say, that by it we die and are buried together with Christ.
Hence holy Church has always understood that to impose those works of piety,
usually called by the holy Fathers works of satisfaction, on one who is to be
cleansed in Baptism, would be injurious to this Sacrament in the highest
Nor is there any discrepancy between the doctrine here taught and the
practice of the primitive Church, which of old commanded the Jews, when
preparing for Baptism, to observe a fast of forty successive days. (The fast
thus imposed) was not enjoined as a work of satisfaction; but those who had
received Baptism were thus admonished to devote some time to the uninterrupted
exercise of fasting and prayer in honour of so great a Sacrament.
Baptism Does Not Exempt From Penalties Of The Civil Law
Although the remission by Baptism of the punishments due to sin cannot be
questioned, we are not to infer that it exempts an offender from the punishments
decreed by civil tribunals for some grave crime. Thus a person sentenced to
death is not rescued by Baptism from the penalty ordained by the law.
We cannot, however, too highly commend the religion and piety of those rulers
who remit the sentence of the law, that the glory of God may be the more
strikingly displayed in His Sacraments.
Baptism Remits The Punishment Due To Original Sin After Death
Baptism also remits all the punishment due to original sin after this life,
for through the merit of the death of our Lord we are able to attain this
blessing. By Baptism, as we have already said, we die with Christ. For if, says
the Apostle, we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we
shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
Baptism Does Not Free Us From The Miseries Of Life
Should it be asked why immediately after Baptism we are not exempt in this
mortal life from misfortunes and restored by the influence of this sacred
ablution to that state of perfection in which Adam, the father of the human
race, was placed before his fall, the answer will be that there are two chief
reasons for this.
In the first place we who by Baptism are united to, and become members of
Christ's body, should not be more honoured than our Head. Now Christ our Lord,
although clothed from His birth with the plenitude of grace and truth, was not
divested of human infirmity which He assumed, until, having suffered and died,
He rose to the glory of immortality. It cannot appear extraordinary, therefore,
if the faithful, even after they have received the grace of justification by
Baptism, are clothed with frail and perishable bodies until, having undergone
many labours for the sake of Christ, and having closed their earthly career,
they are recalled to life and found worthy to enjoy with Him an eternity of
The second reason why bodily infirmity, disease, sense of pain and motions of
concupiscence remain after Baptism is that in them we may have the seed and
material of virtue from which we shall hereafter receive a more abundant harvest
of glory and more ample rewards. When, with patient resignation, we bear all the
trials of life, and, aided by the divine assistance, subject to the dominion of
reason the rebellious desires of the heart, we ought to cherish an assured hope
that if, with the Apostle we shall have fought a good fight, finished the
course, and kept the faith, the Lord, the just judge, will render to us on that
day a crown of justice which is laid up for us.
Such seems to have been the divine plan with regard to the children of
Israel. God delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, having drowned Pharaoh and
his hosts in the sea; yet He did not conduct them immediately into the happy
land of promise; He first tried them by a variety and multiplicity of
sufferings. And when He afterwards placed them in possession of the promised
land and expelled the previous inhabitants from their native territories, yet He
left a few other nations whom the Israelites could not exterminate, in order
that His people might always have occasion to exercise fortitude and warlike
We may add that if, to the heavenly gifts with which the soul is adorned in
Baptism, were joined temporal advantages, there would be good reason to doubt
whether many might not approach Baptism with a view to obtain such advantages in
this life, rather than the glory to be hoped for in the next; whereas the
Christian should always propose to himself, not these delusive and uncertain
goods which are seen, but the solid and eternal ones which are not seen.
Baptism A Source Of Happiness To The Christian Even In This Life
This life, however, although full of misery, does not lack its pleasures and
joys. To us, who by Baptism are engrafted as branches on Christ's what could be
more pleasing or desirable than, taking up the cross upon our shoulders, to
follow Him as our leader, fatigued by no labor, retarded by no danger, in ardent
pursuit of the rewards of our high vocation; some to receive the laurel of
virginity, others the crown of teaching and preaching, some the palm of
martyrdom, others the honours appropriate to their respective virtues? These
splendid titles of exalted dignity none of us should receive, had we not
contended in the race of this calamitous life and stood unconquered in the
Third Effect Of Baptism: Grace Of Regeneration
But to return to the effects of Baptism, it should be taught that by virtue
of this Sacrament we are not only delivered from what are justly deemed the
greatest of all evils, but are also enriched with invaluable goods and
blessings. Our souls are replenished with divine grace, by which we are rendered
just and children of God and are made heirs to eternal salvation. For it is
written: He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved, and the Apostle
testifies that the Church is cleansed by the laver of water in the word of life.
Now according to the definition of the Council of Trent, which under pain of
anathema we are bound to believe, grace not only remits sin, but is also a
divine quality inherent in the soul, and, as it were, a brilliant light that
effaces all those stains which obscure the lustre of the soul, investing it with
increased brightness and beauty. This is also a clear inference from the words
of Scripture when it says that grace is poured forth, and also when it usually
calls grace, the pledge of the Holy Ghost.
Fourth Effect Of Baptism: Infused Virtues And Incorporation With
This grace is accompanied by a most splendid train of all virtues, which are
divinely infused into the soul along with grace. Hence, when writing to Titus,
the Apostle says: He saved us by the laver of regeneration and renovation of the
Holy Ghost, whom he hath poured forth upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ
our Saviour. St. Augustine, in explanation of the words, poured forth
abundantly, says: that is, for the remission of sins and for abundance of
By Baptism we are also united to Christ, as members to their Head. As
therefore from the head proceeds the power by which the different members of the
body are moved to the proper performance of their respective functions, so from
the fullness of Christ the Lord are diffused divine grace and virtue through all
those who are justified, qualifying them for the performance of all the duties
of Christian piety.
Why The Practice Of Virtue Is Difficult Even After Baptism
Though we are thus supported by a powerful array of virtues, it should not
excite our surprise if we cannot, without much labor and difficulty, undertake,
or at least, perform acts of piety and of moral virtue. If this is so, it is not
because the goodness of God has not bestowed on us the virtues from which these
good works proceed; but because there still remains after Baptism a severe
conflict of the flesh against the spirit, in which, however, it would not become
a Christian to be dispirited or grow faint.
Relying on the divine goodness we should confidently hope that by a constant
habit of leading a holy life the time will come when whatever things are modest,
whatever just, whatever holy, will also prove easy and agreeable. Let these be
the subjects of our willing consideration, the objects of our cheerful practice,
that the God of peace may be with us.
Fifth Effect Of Baptism: Character Of Christian
By Baptism, moreover, we are sealed with a character that can never be
effaced from the soul. On this point, however, we need not speak at length, for
what we have already sufficiently said on the subject, when treating of the
Sacraments in general, may be applied here.
Baptism Not To Be Repeated
Since on account of the nature and efficacy of this character it has been
defined by the Church that this Sacrament is on no account to be reiterated,
pastors should frequently and diligently admonish the faithful on this subject,
lest at any time they may be led into error.
This doctrine is taught by the Apostle when he says: One Lord, one faith, one
baptism. Again, when exhorting the Romans, that being dead in Christ by Baptism
they should take care not to lose the life which they had received from Him, he
says: In that Christ died unto sin, he died once. These words seem clearly to
signify that as Christ cannot die again, neither can we die again by Baptism.
Hence the holy Church also openly professes that she believes one Baptism. That
this agrees with the nature of the thing and with reason is understood from the
very idea of Baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration. As then, by virtue of
the laws of nature, we are generated and born but once, and, as St. Augustine
observes, there is no returning to the womb; so, in like manner, there is but
one spiritual generation, and Baptism is never at any time to be repeated.
In Conditional Baptism The Sacrament Is Not Repeated
Nor let anyone suppose that it is repeated by the Church when she baptises
anyone whose previous Baptism was doubtful, making use of this formula: If thou
art baptised, I baptise thee not again but if thou art not yet baptised, I
baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
In such cases Baptism is not to be considered as impiously repeated, but as
holily, yet conditionally, administered.
In this connection, however, there are some matters, in which, to the very
great injury of the Sacrament, abuses are of almost daily occurrence, and which
therefore demand the diligent attention of pastors. For there are not wanting
those who think that no sin is committed if they indiscriminately administer
conditional Baptism. Hence if an infant be brought to them, they think that no
inquiry need be made as to whether it was previously baptised, but proceed
immediately to baptise the child. Nay more, although they be well aware that the
Sacrament was administered at home, they do not hesitate to repeat its
administration in the Church conditionally, making use of the solemn ceremonies
of the Church.
This certainly they cannot do without sacrilege and without incurring what
theologians call an irregularity. According to the authority of Pope Alexander
the conditional form of Baptism is to be used only when after due inquiry doubts
are entertained as to the validity of the previous Baptism. In no other case is
it ever lawful to administer Baptism a second time, even conditionally.
Sixth Effect Of Baptism: Opening The Gates Of Heaven
Besides the other advantages which accrue to us from Baptism, the last, to
which all the others seem to be referred, is that it opens to us the portals of
heaven which sin had closed against us.
Effects Of Baptism Foreshadowed In The Baptism Of Christ
These effects which are wrought in us by virtue of Baptism are distinctly
marked by the circumstances which, as the Gospel relates, accompanied the
Baptism of our Saviour. The heavens were opened and the Holy Ghost appeared
descending upon Christ our Lord in the form of a dove. By this we are given to
understand that to those who are baptised are imparted the gifts of the Holy
Spirit, that to them are opened the gates of heaven. The baptised, it is true,
do not enter heaven immediately after Baptism, but in due season. When they
shall have been freed from all misery which is incompatible with a state of
bliss, they shall exchange a mortal for an immortal life.
Measure In Which Those Effects Are Obtained
These are the fruits of Baptism, which, if we consider the efficacy of the
Sacrament, are, no doubt, equally common to all; but if we consider the
dispositions with which it is received, it is no less certain that all do not
share to the same extent in these heavenly gifts and graces.
Ceremonies of Baptism
It now remains to explain, clearly and concisely, what is to be taught
concerning the prayers, rites, and ceremonies of this Sacrament. To rites and
ceremonies may, in some measure, be applied what the Apostle says of the gift of
tongues, that it is unprofitable to speak, unless the faithful understand. They
present an image, and convey the signification of the things that are done in
the Sacrament; but if the people do not understand the force and meaning of
these signs, there is but little advantage derived from ceremonies. Pastors
should take care, therefore, to make them understood and to impress the minds of
the faithful with a conviction that, although ceremonies are not of absolute
necessity, they are of very great importance and deserve great veneration.
This the authority of those by whom they were instituted, who were, no doubt,
the Apostles, and also the object of their institution, sufficiently prove. It
is manifest that ceremonies contribute to the more religious and holy
administration of the Sacraments, serve to place, as it were, before the eyes
the exalted and inestimable gifts which they contain, and impress on the minds
of the faithful a deeper sense of the boundless beneficence of God.
Three Classes Of Ceremonies In Baptism
In order that the pastor's instructions may follow a certain plan and that
the people may find it: easier to remember his words, all the ceremonies and
prayers which the Church uses in the administration of Baptism are to be reduced
to three heads. The first comprehends such as are observed before coming to the
baptismal font; the second, such as are used at the font; the third, those that
usually follow the administration of the Sacrament.
Ceremonies That Are Observed Before Coming To The Font: Consecration Of
In the first place, then, the water to be used in Baptism should be prepared.
The baptismal font is consecrated with the oil of mystic unction; not, however,
at all times, but, according to ancient usage, only on certain feasts, which are
justly deemed the greatest and the most holy solemnities in the year. The water
of Baptism was consecrated on the vigils of those feasts; and on those days
alone, except in cases of necessity, it was also the practice of the ancient
Church to administer Baptism. But although the Church, on account of the dangers
to which life is continually exposed, has deemed it expedient to change her
discipline in this respect, she still observes with the greatest solemnity the
festivals of Easter and Pentecost on which the baptismal water is to be
The Person To Be Baptised Stands At The Church Door
After the consecration of the water the other ceremonies that precede Baptism
are next to be explained. The persons to be baptised are brought or conducted a
to the door of the church and are strictly forbidden to enter, as unworthy to be
admitted into the house of God, until they have cast off the yoke of the most
degrading servitude and devoted themselves unreservedly to Christ the Lord and
His most just authority.
The priest then asks what they demand of the Church; and having received the
answer, he first instructs them in the doctrines of the Christian faith, of
which a profession is to be made in Baptism.
This the priest does in a brief catechetical instruction, a practice which
originated, no doubt, in the precept of our Lord addressed to His Apostles: Go
ye into the whole world, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all
things whatsoever I have commanded you. From this command we may learn that
Baptism is not to be administered until, at least, the principal truths of our
religion are explained.
But as the catechetical form consists of many interrogations, if the person
to be instructed be an adult, he himself answers; if an infant, the sponsor
answers for him according to the prescribed form and makes the solemn
The exorcism comes next in order. It consists of words of sacred and
religious import and of prayers, and is used to expel the devil, to weaken and
crush his power.
To the exorcism are added other ceremonies, each of which, being mystical,
has its own clear signification. When, for instance, salt is put into the mouth
of the person to be baptised, this evidently means that, by the doctrines of
faith and by the gift of grace, he shall be delivered from the corruption of
sin, shall experience a relish for good works, and shall be delighted with the
food of divine wisdom.
The Sign Of The Cross
Next his forehead, eyes, breast, shoulders and ears are signed with the sign
of the cross, to declare, that by the mystery of Baptism, the senses of the
person baptised are opened and strengthened, to enable him to receive God, and
to understand and observe His Commandments.
His nostrils and ears are next touched with spittle, and he is then
immediately admitted to the baptismal font. By this ceremony we understand that,
as sight was given to the blind man mentioned in the Gospel, whom the Lord after
He had spread clay on his eyes commanded to wash them in the waters of Siloe, so
through the efficacy of holy Baptism a light is let in on the mind, which
enables it to discern heavenly truth.
The Ceremonies Observed After Coming To The Font
After the performance of these ceremonies the persons to be baptised approach
the baptismal font, at which are performed other rites and ceremonies which
present a summary of the Christian religion.
The Renunciation Of Satan
Three distinct times the person to be baptised is asked by the priest: Dost
thou renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his pomps? To each of which he,
or the sponsor in his name, replies, I renounce. Whoever, then, purposes to
enlist, under the standard of Christ, must first of all, enter into a sacred and
solemn engagement to renounce the devil and the world, and always to hold them
in utter detestation as his worst enemies.
The Profession Of Faith
Next, standing at the baptismal font, he is interrogated by the priest in
these words: Dost thou believe in God, the Father Almighty? To which he answers:
I believe. Being similarly questioned on the remaining Articles of the Creed, he
solemnly professes his faith. These two promises contain, it is clear, the sum
and substance of the law of Christ.
The Wish To Be Baptised
When the Sacrament is now about to be administered, the priest asks the
candidate if he wishes to be baptised. After an answer in the affirmative has
been given by him, or, if he is an infant, by the sponsor, the priest
immediately performs the salutary ablution, in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
As man, by yielding the assent of his will to the wicked suggestions of
Satan, fell under a just sentence of condemnation; so God will have none
enrolled in the number of His soldiers but those whose service is voluntary,
that by a willing obedience to His commands they may obtain eternal
The Ceremonies That Follow Baptism: Chrism
After the person has been baptised, the priest anoints the crown of his head
with chrism, thus giving him to understand, that from that day he is united as a
member to Christ, His Head, and ingrafted on His body; and that he is,
therefore, called a Christian from Christ, as Christ is so called from chrism.
What the chrism signifies, the prayers then offered by the priest, as St.
Ambrose observes, sufficiently explain.
The White Garment
On the person baptised the priest then puts a white garment saying: Receive
this white garment, which mayest thou carry unstained before the
judgmentseat of our Lord Jesus Christ; that thou mayest have eternal life.
Instead of a white garment, infants, because not formally dressed, receive a
white cloth, accompanied by the same words.
According to the teaching of the Fathers this symbol signifies the glory of
the resurrection to which we are born by Baptism, the brightness and beauty with
which the soul, when purified from the stains of sin, is invested in Baptism,
and the innocence and integrity which the person who has received Baptism should
preserve throughout life.
The Lighted Candle
A lighted taper is then put into the hand of the baptised to signify that
faith, inflamed by charity, which is received in Baptism, is to be fed and
augmented by the exercise of good works.
The Name Given In Baptism
Finally, a name is given the person baptised. It should be taken from some
person whose eminent sanctity has given him a place in the catalogue of the
Saints. The similarity of name will stimulate each one to imitate the virtues
and holiness of the Saint, and, moreover, to hope and pray that he who is the
model for his imitation will also be his advocate and watch over the safety of
his body and soul.
Wherefore those are to be reproved who search for the names of heathens,
especially of those who were the greatest monsters of iniquity, to bestow upon
their children. By such conduct they practically prove how little they regard
Christian piety when they so fondly cherish the memory of impious men, as to
wish to have their profane names continually echo in the ears of the faithful.
This exposition of the Sacrament of Baptism, if given by pastors, will be
found to embrace almost everything which should be known regarding this
Sacrament. We have explained the meaning of the word Baptism, the nature and
substance of the Sacrament, and also the parts of which it is composed. We have
said by whom it was instituted; who are the ministers necessary to its
administration; who should be, as it were, the tutors whose instructions should
sustain the weakness of the person baptised; to whom Baptism should be
administered; and how they should be disposed; what are the virtue and efficacy
of the Sacrament; finally, we have developed, at sufficient length for our
purpose, the rites and ceremonies that should accompany its administration.
Pastors should recollect that the chief purpose of all these instructions is
to induce the faithful to direct their constant attention and solicitude to the
fulfilment of the promises so sacredly made at Baptism, and to lead lives not
unworthy of the sanctity that should accompany the name and profession of
Catechism of Trent Index