What makes someone a Christian? Aim: To consider what the significance of the Sacrament of Baptism and how people become part of a Christian community Key Questions: • What happens at Baptism? • Why? What do the words and actions symbolise? • Does Baptism make someone a Christian? • When should someone be baptised?
Baptism is the sign that someone belongs to Christ. That is why Baptism is sometimes known as a ‘christening’. Baptism Among Christians, there are two very different opinions about when people should be baptised. Some believe that people should only be baptised when they are old enough to understand what they are doing and make the choice to follow Jesus for themselves. Others think that it is right to baptise children of Christian parents. They also believe that it is not right to exclude babies and very young children from being in the Christian family just because they can't yet understand what's going on. They say that Baptism welcomes children into the Church community – however it is important to note that Baptism alone does not automatically make someone a full member of the Church.
Baptism in the Roman Catholic Church In the Catholic Church, babies, children and adults can be baptised. Although a baby cannot decide to follow Christ for themselves, in the Catholic Church a baptism shows that the child is included as a member of the church community.
Infant Baptism Parents who want to have their baby baptised may be asked to attend Baptism preparation sessions, so that they fully understand what they are undertaking. At an infant Baptism, the child will have Godparents. These are special adults chosen by the parents of the child. Godparents promise to take a special interest in the child as he or she grows up, providing essential support to the parents in encouraging the child to develop their relationship with God throughout their lives.
During the Sacrament of Baptism the Priest asks the parents and Godparents questions, and they make promises to raise the child in the faith. Baptism, like all Sacraments, is a communal celebration. Everyone present celebrates the Sacrament and benefits from the presence of Christ in the Sacrament. When a baby is baptised, the Priest pours water on his or her head, saying the following words; “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It is at this point that the baby is officially named; establishing their identity as an individual and as a member of the Christian faith.
Anointing with Oil Two oils are used in the ceremony, the baby’s chest is anointed with the Oil of Catechumens before the water ritual. Oil was traditionally used to anoint soldiers going into battle to give them strength and the Oil of Catechumens is used to give the baby strength in their life as a Christian. Following the water ritual, using the Oil of Chrism, the priest makes the sign of the Cross on the baby's forehead, as a sign of the child's new life with Christ.
Pope Francis baptised many babies on January 6th, The Baptism of Our Lord
Baptism Candle A candle is lit from the Paschal Candle during the service, and the light from the candle shows that Baptism is a symbol of a person moving from darkness (sin) into new life as a child of light. The Godparents hold this candle. Jesus once said, “I am the Light of the World.” The light from the candle reminds us that followers of Jesus are called to carry the light of faith in the world. The parents and Godparents will help the child to do this. This candle is often used for the child’s Ceremony of Light while they prepare for Confirmation; the final Sacrament of Initiation.
Why does the baby wear white? The baby is clothed in a white garment after the water ritual, this is worn as a symbol of purity as the child is born to a new life in Christ and will share in the glory of his resurrection.
Believer's Baptism In other Christian Churches, Baptism is undertaken when the person is an adult and chooses the Sacrament for himself/herself. There are no godparents at a believer's baptism. This form of baptism involves the total immersion of the candidate, and they may have some close friends who will pray for them during the service. There is usually an opportunity during the ceremony for the candidate to talk about how and why they have chosen to become a Christian and why they are being baptised - this may be an interview, or the person may give a speech; this is called a testimony.
Believer's Baptism The candidate and minister descend into the water together. The Minister will usually give the candidate a verse from Bible, which may be specially relevant to them. The Minister then lowers the candidate under the water, as a symbol of their dying to their old life, and living for their own selves, and raises them back up again, as a symbol of their desire to live a new life, with Jesus as Lord! Believer’s baptism is the name given for the baptism of adults. The Baptist Church (one of the Christian denominations) perform believer’s baptisms. Most Baptist churches have a baptistery – a covered pool – for this purpose.
Symbols in Believer’s Baptism The water symbolises purity and washing away sins. Going under the water symbolising ‘death’ to the life of the person, prior to voicing their commitment to live a Christian Life. Coming back up from the water symbolises being born into a new life as a Christian.
What is the point of Baptism? Throughout history washing with water has been a sign of being clean in God’s eyes and acceptable to God. Baptism is a sign that someone has repented of their sins (is sorry for the wrongdoings they have committed) and shows that they want a fresh start. Christians believe that being baptised is a way of publicly announcing that you are a follower of Jesus. Some churches see Baptism as a way of becoming an official member of the church.
Baptism in the Catholic Church To become a full member of the Catholic Church, people must receive the three Sacraments of Initiation; Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. In Ireland this process usually takes place in the following order: Baptism as an infant, Eucharist at eight years of age and Confirmation at twelve years of age. This process helps us to receive ongoing strength and support from Christ, in living a Christian life.
Task Alan the Alien has come from his planet to Earth and he doesn’t know anything about belonging to a community. Write an information page for him to explain everything about why humans welcome new members into their communities. Use the example of Christian Baptism to describe and explain in detail, one way that this is done. Make it clear to Alan that different Christians do this in very different ways. You could also inform Alan of other ways that humans might welcome new life – you could use examples from other religious traditions (if you know of any) or from a humanist point of view. You can find lots of information on the internet to help you. For example, take a look at information about RCIA.
Quick check: What have you learnt so far? • What happens at Baptism? • Are all baptisms the same? Why? • What do the words and actions of the baptism ceremony symbolise? • Does a baptism make someone a Christian?
Is it right to baptise babies? • Consider and discuss the views in support of infant Baptism, in the same way you should then examine the alternative; Adult Baptism. • Prepare a written response to the following question: What is the best approach to Baptism in your view? • There are different levels of response – some answers will be better than others. • Read through the next slide carefully – it gives you advice about how to write a better answer.
Writing Frame: • Some people might think it is best to baptise infants because … • Others might think it is better to wait and baptise people when they are adults because… • Personally, I think … because…
Further resources Follow the link here to view an RE Quest resource on Baptism: http://request.org.uk/life/believers-baptism-rites-of-passage-life-2/2013/06/17/infant-baptism/ Pope Francis: “How many of you can remember the date of your Baptism?” https://www.osv.com/TheChurch/Article/TabId/563/ArtMID/13751/ArticleID/13423/Homework-from-Pope-Francis-Let%E2%80%99s-make-it-a-celebration.aspx