The Sacrament of Baptism is the one sacrament that all Christian denominations share in common. In the Catholic Church, infants are baptized to welcome them into the Catholic faith and to free them from the original sin with which they were born. Because of original sin, we come into the world with a soul which is supernaturally dead and with only the natural endowments of human nature. This supernatural life, which is the result of God’s personal and intimate indwelling, is absent from the soul. Jesus instituted the sacrament of Baptism to apply to each individual soul the atonement which He made on the Cross for original sin. When the sacrament of Baptism is administered, the spiritual vacuum which we call original sin disappears as God becomes present in the soul, and the soul is caught up into that sharing of God’s own life which we call sanctifying grace. To the Catholic Church, original sin isn’t a personal sin of the unborn, but a sin transmitted from generation to generation by birth. All men and women are born with original sin, and only Baptism can wash it away.
Like the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Sacrament of Holy Orders, as a Catholic, you’re baptized just once. These three sacraments confer an indelible mark on your soul. No one can ever be “un-baptized” or “re-baptized.” Baptism is not only the first of the seven sacraments; it is also the basic sacrament. Unless a person is baptized, none of the other six sacraments can be received.
THE RITUAL OF BAPTISM AND THE ROLE OF GODPARENTS
Baptisms in the Catholic Church usually take place on Sundays in the early afternoon after all the Masses are over. The parish priest or deacon administers the sacrament, anointing the person being baptized with oils, and pouring blessed water over the child or adult’s head not just once but three times. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, any Baptism that uses water and the invocation of the Holy Trinity, as in “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” is a valid sacrament.
A person being baptized in the Catholic Church is expected to dress in white to symbolize purity of faith and the cleansing power of Baptism. The white garment symbolizes the white garments Jesus wore when he was placed in the tomb after his death on Good Friday. An infant may wear a baptismal gown handed down for generations; an adult typically puts on a full-length white gown known as an alb.
The Baptism ritual is a participatory one, with all attendees rejecting Satan and professing their faith, with parents and of an infant and the godparents and immediate family members of the person being baptized being a bit more involved.
Every person being baptized must have a sponsor, traditionally called a godparent. You must have at least one sponsor, but usually infants get one of each gender and often from each side of a family. The role of godparents has a very practical history. Godparents took over rearing children who were orphaned prematurely when their parents died. Today, being a godparent carries with it no legal right or ecclesiastical authority to the custody of children. Being a godparent really means demonstrating good Christian witness and example and being a role model and support for the godchild by regularly and faithfully practicing the religion.