Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213
Baptism is the first of the sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church. It makes us adopted children of God, incorporates us into Christ, pardons all our sin, and forms us into God’s people. It confers a permanent relationship ("character") with Christ and his Church which lasts even should one cease to be an active member of the Catholic community. For this reason a validly baptized Christian is never re-baptized and has the right to a Christian funeral.
Bishops, priests and deacons are the ordinary ministers of baptism, although anyone with the right intention may administer the sacrament in case of imminent death. The words for conferring baptism in the Latin Church are: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Christian Initiation of Children
Baptism of infants takes place within the first few weeks after birth in the parish Church. It is highly desirable that baptisms take place during Sunday Eucharist when the parish community is assembled for worship. Otherwise, baptisms are scheduled by the parish, as required. It is important to recall that this sacrament is a church and not a family celebration, which the parents must have the intention of raising the child in the Catholic faith and that both parents and godparents are to be instructed on the serious responsibility they take upon themselves when they present their children for baptism.
We use “sacramentals” to mark specific moments in life, to remind us of the sacramental nature of all life.
The Elements of a Sacramental
- There is always a prayer (see CCC #1672)
- There is often a specific sign such as:
- Laying on of hands
- Sign of the Cross
- Sprinkling of Holy Water
Used in the sacraments which impart a sacramental character (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders), in the Sacrament of Healing (Anointing of the Sick), and in the blessing of various objects. The blessing of oils has traditionally been done on Holy Thursday by a bishop at a cathedral. The supply distributed to local churches is kept in the ambry.
Used in Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, as well as blessing tower bells and baptismal water and for consecrating churches, altars, chalices, and patens. Only chrism among the holy oils includes balsam, or balm, giving it an unmistakable fragrance.
The Christ (Paschal) Candle
An important symbol of Christ and of Easter, the Paschal candle is lit directly from the new fire at each Easter Vigil, and it remains lit from the Easter Vigil, throughout the fifty days of Easter), until Pentecost. Thereafter, it is used for its resurrection symbolism at Baptisms and funerals.
At the baptism, the candle is lit from the Paschal candle, and is presented to the godparents/sponsors with the exhortation to keep the flame of faith burning brightly. One custom is to light one's baptismal candle each year on the anniversary of one's baptism.
This sanctuary lamp or light is usually red or white, and signals the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Altar candles express devotion or the degree of festivity, and are placed on or around the altar.
Candles are common in church, and symbolize prayers rising to God.
Holy Water is water which is blessed by a priest and used as a sacramental for blessings, the Rite of Sprinkling at Sunday Mass, and for renewal of baptismal promises (by dipping one's fingers in the holy water and making the sign of the cross) upon entering a church. Besides ordinary holy water, there are also baptismal holy water (used with chrism in the administration of baptism) and Easter water, which is blessed for use in the paschal season.
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