Infant baptism | Understanding the sacrament
Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all people are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant baptism.
The church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer baptism shortly after birth.
The term "children" or "infants" refers to those who have not yet reached the age of discernment and therefore cannot profess personal faith.
From the earliest times, the Catholic Church, to which the mission of preaching the Gospel and of baptizing was entrusted, has baptized not only adults, but children as well.
Our Lord said, "Unless a man is reborn in water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
The church has always understood these words to mean that children should not be deprived of baptism, because they are baptized in the faith of the church, a faith proclaimed for them by their parents and godparents, who represent both the local church and the whole society of saints and believers.
"The whole Church is the mother of all and the mother of each."
· Having a child baptized is the first concrete decision about religion that parents make for their child.
· The two principal effects of baptism are the purification from sin and new birth through the Holy Spirit into the communion of the church.
· Baptism is the first of three sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, first Eucharist).
· Through baptism we become God’s children and members of the church.
· Baptism is passing on the faith, a lifelong gift, a lifelong responsibility.
· Parents request baptism for their child at the church to signify their choice, and to initiate the child as a member of the universal Catholic Church, and a local parish community.
· There is no private baptism. They occur always with a gathered community, whether during Mass, or with family and friends.
· The parish community will support the family in their efforts to raise the child in the faith.
· The true meaning of the sacrament is fulfilled later in life as the children are formed in the faith.
To fulfill the true meaning of the sacrament, children must later be formed in the faith in which they have been baptized. The foundation of this formation will be the sacrament itself that they have already received.
Christian formation, which is their due, seeks to lead them gradually to learn God's plan in Christ, so that they may ultimately accept for themselves the faith in which they have been baptized.