For Catholics, the Sacrament of Baptism is the first step in a lifelong journey of commitment and discipleship. Whether we are baptized as infants or adults, Baptism is the Church’s way of celebrating and enacting the embrace of God.
The sacrament of baptism ushers us into the divine life, cleanses us from sin, and initiates us as members of the Christian community. It is the foundation for the sacramental life. Baptism is the first of three Sacraments of Initiation into the life of Christ within his Church. The historical order of these three sacraments is: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. When these are celebrated during Holy Mass, Baptism and Confirmation occur after we have heard the Word of God and then Communion is given at the normal time within Mass.
The Catechism teaches:
“The fruit of Baptism, or baptismal grace, is a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. By this very fact the person baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ” (CCC 1279).
The Age of Baptism
In the Catholic tradition, we normally baptize infants within the first few weeks of birth. However, baptism can be administered at any age. After the age of reason, the candidate for baptism must receive formation for the sacrament so that he or she can understand what they are doing. Prior to the age of reason, the emphasis of the Catholic Church is upon forming the parents and godparent who will be taking on the privilege and responsibility of raising the infant in the Catholic faith.