The Necessity Of Baptsim
I’m afraid that a few Catholics have some misinformation about the Sacrament of Baptism. The trouble is they act on what they think and hear-and not on the teaching of Jesus and the Catholic Church. Christ was very adamant about the necessity of Baptism: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” (John 3:5) He couldn’t have put it any more strongly. Baptism is not an option - but is a necessity! The Lord Jesus Himself said so.
The Church tells us that there are three types of baptism: water, blood and desire. Baptism of water is the actual sacrament of baptism. Baptism of blood is dying for the faith even though one is not baptized. Baptism of desire is the wish to receive the sacrament - or at least an implicit desire to please God and do what is necessary for salvation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of His Church, but seeks the truth, and does the will of God in accord with his understanding of it, can be saved.” (1260) Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has the solemn and most serious obligation to see that as many as possible are baptized into Christ. It must be understood, of course, that those with the use of reason must have some intention to be baptized.
Baptism changes everything absolutely. Before the conferral of baptism, the person was living a merely natural life. He or she did not possess the Divine Trinity in the soul. With baptism, the person was immediately transformed into a living temple of the Triune God. Original Sin and (in the case of adults or children of the age of reason) all personal sins and all punishment for sin were done away with. At the moment of baptism the one baptized is marked forever with the sign of Christ and that is why baptism certainly and validly conferred can never be repeated.
Since my ordination in 1967, I notice with great sadness that any number of parents delay the celebration of baptism for reasons of convenience or for arranging a family party. The mind of the Catholic Church is that an infant be baptized as soon as possible after birth. The Code of Canon Law says this: “Parents are obliged to see to it that infants are baptized within the first weeks after birth.” (Can. 867) As pastor, I consider it my responsibility to make absolutely certain that the celebration of baptism is made readily and easily available. If the times scheduled are not convenient, I will baptize at any reasonable and mutually convenient time. That is the importance that I attach to this sacrament.
Parents and teachers should make every effort to instruct children and adolescents on the supreme importance of baptism and how to baptize when in danger of death and no priest or deacon is available. All you need to do is pour ordinary water on the forehead and say while pouring: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy spirit.” Nothing could be easier!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James M. McDonald
Monsignor McDonald is the pastor of St. Matthew R.C. Church in Dix Hills, Long Island.