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General Information Regarding Baptism

Return to Sacraments Section


The Sacrament of Baptism

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"You go down dead in your sins, and you come up made alive in righteousness." (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church, c. 350 A.D.)

 "If we beheld a soul after baptism with the eyes of faith, we should see angels taking their watch around it." (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton) 

"It is nothing that we are born of our parents, if we are not reborn again of God by water and the Spirit." [Pseudo Chrys (as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church)]

The Sacrament of Baptism

Also Called: Sacrament of Initiation, Illumination, The Sacrament of Faith, The Sacrament of Regeneration

"Baptism is a Sacrament which cleanses us from original sin, makes us Christians, children of God, and heirs of heaven." (Baltimore Catechism)

"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." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

Click Link Below or Scroll Down to View All:

Type of Sacrament

Is Sacrament Obligatory?


Can This Sacrament Be Repeated?

When Should Sacrament Be Received?

General Prerequisites (for adults)

Ordinary Ministers

Form / Matter

Chief Effects

Additional Information

For More Information Regarding Baptism, Try...

Type of Sacrament: 'Sacrament of the Dead'  (click here for more info.)

Is Sacrament Obligatory? Yes.

"[Jesus] said to them, 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.'" (Mk. 16:15-16) 

Note: As Scripture makes clear, faith & baptism are necessary first steps to salvation. To be saved, one must also live according to God's laws.

Recipients: Persons of all ages (infant to aged, male and female)

Can This Sacrament Be Repeated? No

When Should Sacrament Be Received? As soon as possible after birth (for adults, as soon as possible after proper catechetical instruction)

General Prerequisites (for adults): Proper intention, proper instruction, faith, repentance for past sins

Ordinary Ministers: Priests (or Bishops)

Note: In case of necessity, even unbaptized lay persons (who have the proper intention) can administer a valid baptism. [Note: Therefore, it is recommended that all learn how to baptize properly in case of emergency.]

Form / Matter: Formula of Baptism (e.g. "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"), Water (natural)

Chief Effects:

* Complete forgiveness of and remission of punishment due to original sin and all actual sin that has been committed up to that time.

* Imparts a 'Character of a Christian': "By Baptism, moreover, we are sealed with a character that can never be effaced from the soul." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* "The sacrament of Baptism confers first sanctifying grace by which original sin is washed away, as well as all actual sin if any such exists; it remits all punishment due on account of such sins; it imprints the character of a Christian; it makes us children of God, members of the Church, and heirs to Paradise, and enables us to receive the other sacraments." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

* "[B]y 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" (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* "[T]he 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" (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* Regenerates in Christ (gives us a 'second birth'): "The water, therefore, manifesting exteriorly the sacrament of grace, and the Spirit effecting interiorly the benefit of grace, both regenerate in one Christ that man who was generated in one Adam." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 408 A.D.)

* Imparts the Holy Spirit: "The beginnings of this regeneration and renovation of man are by Baptism. In this sacrament, when the unclean spirit has been expelled from the soul, the Holy Ghost enters in and makes it like to Himself. 'That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit' (John iii., 6). The same Spirit gives Himself more abundantly in Confirmation, strengthening and confirming Christian life; from which proceeded the victory of the martyrs and the triumph of the virgins over temptations and corruptions." (Pope Leo XIII, "Divinum Illud Munus", 1897 A.D.)

* "[I]t opens to us the portals of heaven which sin had closed against us" (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

Additional Information:

* Baptism is the first Sacrament and is called the "gate" to the other sacraments

* Those baptized should be given a Christian name (e.g. a saint's name)

* Requires appropriate Sponsor(s)/Godparent(s) ["The duty of a godparent after Baptism is to see that the child is brought up a good Catholic, if this is not done by the parents." (Baltimore Catechism)]

* Baptism makes us members of Christ's Church

* Baptism allows us to receive the other Sacraments

* Jesus Himself was baptized (see Mt. 3:13-15)

* Parents must be certain that their children are baptized in the Catholic Church. "Can. 1366 Parents, or those who take the place of parents, who hand over their children to be baptized or educated in a non-Catholic religion are to be punished with a censure or other just penalty." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

* "[Baptized persons are] bound to always profess the faith and observe the Law of Jesus Christ and of His Church" (Catechism of St. Pius X)

* It is of great importance that infants be baptized without delay. The necessity of infant baptism can be demonstrated by recalling the fact that all persons are conceived with the guilt of Original Sin (Click Here For 'Original Sin' Reflections). In the Old Testament, we know that male infants were circumcised and in the New Testament, we can see that whole households were baptized (cf. Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33). It has always been the practice of the Church to baptize infants. The Church teaches us that since Adam & Eve, the only human being ever conceived immaculately (besides Jesus) was the Blessed Virgin Mary. All other infants are conceived stained by original sin, which has always been held to prevent persons from seeing the Beatific Vision. In Scripture, we see that St. John the Baptist was the only infant sanctified in his mother's womb - but before his sanctification even he was stained with original sin. We see clearly therefore that baptism is necessary for salvation, and those who deny their children this necessary sacrament jeopardize their salvation. Any who think infant Baptism is unnecessary should consider the constant teaching of the Church, indicated by quotations such as the following:

"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 death." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"'If anyone denies that infants newly born from their mothers' wombs are to be baptized,' even though they be born of baptized parents, 'or says they are baptized indeed for the remission of sins, but that they derive nothing of original sin from Adam, which must be expiated by the laver of regeneration' for the attainment of life everlasting, whence it follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins is understood to be not true, but false: let him be anathema. For what the Apostle has said: 'By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned' (Rom. 5:12), is not to be understood otherwise than as the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For by reason of this rule of faith from a tradition of the apostles even infants, who could not as yet commit any sins of themselves, are for this reason truly baptized for the remission of sins, so that in them there may be washed away by regeneration, what they have contracted by generation, (see n. 102). 'For unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God' (Jn. 3:5)." (Council of Trent, Denzinger #791)

"The souls of those who die in mortal sin, or with original sin only [e.g. infants], however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments." (Council of Lyons II, Denzinger #464) [Note: Infants who die in the state of Original Sin only (that is, unbaptized infants), are traditionally believed to descend to the "upper regions of hell" where - although not suffering physical torments and are in a state of 'natural happiness' - are pained by being deprived by the loss of the Beatific Vision. Never has the Church recognized another means of salvation for such infants besides Baptism.]

"It (the Roman Church) teaches...that the souls...of those who die in mortal sin, or with only original sin [e.g. infants] descend immediately into hell; however, to be punished with different penalties and in different places." (Pope John XXII, Denzinger #493a).

"...the souls of those who depart [die] in actual mortal sin or in original sin only [e.g. infants], descend immediately into hell but to undergo punishments of different kinds." (Council of Florence, Denzinger #693)

Note: Even aborted babies should be baptized: "Can. 747 Care should be taken that aborted fetuses, at whatever time they are born, if they are certainly alive, be baptized absolutely; if there is doubt, under condition after (being born)." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

* In cases of necessity, it may be possible to baptize infants in the womb. "Can. 746 § 1 No one should be baptized in the mother's womb so long as there is a hope that he can be baptized correctly outside of it. § 2 If the head of an infant is exposed and there is imminent danger of death, let him be baptized on the head; later, if he is delivered alive, he should be baptized again under condition. § 3 If another part of the body is exposed, and if danger [of death] is imminent, let him be baptized under condition, thereupon, and then, if he survives birth, he should be once again baptized under condition. § 4 If a pregnant mother dies, and if the fetus is delivered by those who do such things, and if he is certainly alive, he should be baptized absolutely; if there is doubt, [the fetus should be baptized] under condition. § 5 A fetus baptized in the womb should be baptized again under condition after [being born]." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

* All (valid) baptisms conducted outside the Catholic Church are actually Catholic Sacraments "used unlawfully" (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church). While "the baptism of Christ cannot be invalidated even by the perversity of heretics, when it is given or received among them", it "could not profit those who had received it with the guilt of schism [or heresy]" (St. Augustine). Such baptisms, however, would be profitable once the person converted to the true Church of Christ, the Catholic Church.

"Baptism is good, if a man use it lawfully. And as they who used the law unlawfully could not in that case cause that it should not be in itself good, or make it null and void, so any one who uses baptism unlawfully...because he lives in heresy...yet cannot cause that the baptism should be otherwise than good, or altogether null and void. And so, when he is Catholic unity...he begins to have not another and a lawful baptism, but that same baptism in a lawful manner. Nor does the remission of irrevocable sins follow on baptism, unless a man not only have lawful baptism, but have it lawfully" (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

* There are three kinds of Baptism: Baptism of water (the traditional method), Baptism of desire ("an ardent wish to receive Baptism and to do all that God has ordained for our salvation"), and Baptism of blood ("the shedding of one's blood for the faith of Christ"). Note: The Church holds that Baptism of desire and Baptism of blood are sufficient when it is impossible to receive the Baptism of water (click here for more information).

Scroll Down For More...

For More Information Regarding Baptism, Try...

Baptism (Topic Page)

The Catechism of the Council of Trent on Baptism

Selections From the Baltimore Catechism - Q & A Format! 

Tip: Select "Display by Lesson", then select lesson number corresponding to Baptism.

Baptism Reflections

Baptism (Topical Scripture)

Original Sin (Topic Page)

Original Sin (Catholic Basics Reflections)

Catholic Basics

Baptism Apologetics (Non-Catholics Section)

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* Baptism (Topic Page)

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* Holy Spirit (Topic Page)

* Grace (Topic Page)


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