Baptism is the first and formal step to being a Catholic, serving as the gateway to the other sacraments of the church. But how exactly does it go, and what are the requirements to receive it? As your fellow Catholic faithful with a baptized son and a sponsor for several children, I came up with this guide on how to get baptized in the Catholic church to help you out.
Adults need to be admitted to the catechumenate to receive baptism. This means going through formal Christian formation, training, and education. For children, their parent/s and sponsors are given proper instruction on the meaning of the sacrament of baptism and the obligations that come with it.
That said, the process of getting baptized is different for children and adults. There are also basic guidelines one should follow and a few requirements to meet before receiving the sacrament. To know what all these are, continue reading.
Can Anyone Be Baptized Catholic?
Before we proceed, let us first answer one of the most common questions about Catholic baptisms. Who can receive it, and can anyone be baptized?
An individual can receive baptism as an infant, a child, or as an adult. So anyone can definitely receive it, regardless of age. However, the Code of Canon Law (864), does stipulate that only those not yet baptized are capable of baptism. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1272, it’s also stated that: “Given once for all, baptism cannot be repeated.”
So if an individual has already been validly baptized, he/she is already a Christian and a member of the church. Thus, there’s no need to repeat the process. Take note of the use of “valid” here. For baptism to be considered valid in the eyes of the Catholic church, it should entail using water by immersing or pouring and pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). It is only when the original baptism is deemed invalid that a person may be baptized twice.
Now, if your purpose for baptism is to join the Catholic Church, but you’re already a baptized Baptist, Methodist, etc., then you won’t be allowed to receive the sacrament again. Instead, you’ll be required to make a Profession of Faith and celebrate the sacrament of Eucharist and confirmation. To understand this better, check out our guide on how to become a Catholic.
What are the Requirements for Catholic Baptism?
The guidelines and requirements for Catholic baptism are different for infants and adults, including children who reached the age of reason (7 years old). To help you understand better, here’s a look into each case:
Requirements for Infant Baptisms
The practice of baptizing infants has been a long-standing tradition in the Catholic church. It is through this sacrament that infants are freed from the original sin, welcomed into our community, and where they are offered access to the real meaning of salvation. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1250, “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.”
Now, the requirements we’ve listed below apply only to infants (0 to 1 year old) and those under 7 years old, which according to the Catholic church, is the age of reason. From the Code of Canon Law, 852.2, “A person who is not responsible for oneself is also regarded as an infant with respect to baptism”. With that said, here’s what you need to know before getting infants baptized:
1. The parents, or at least one of them, or guardian/s must give their consent to have the infant or child baptized.
2. There is founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion. This is an important requirement because if it is found to be lacking, then the baptism may be delayed.
3. Baptisms are only allowed to be held in a church or oratory. For infants, they are required to be baptized in the parish church of their parents. If, because of distance or other circumstances, the infant can’t go to the church or oratory, the celebration may be done in another nearer church, oratory, or other fitting place.
Now, if you’re wondering if you can hold a child’s baptism at home or another private house, then the answer is no. Hospitals are not permitted as well. But suppose your local ordinary or diocesan bishop sees that it is necessary due to grave cause or some other compelling reason, you may be permitted to celebrate in such places.
4. Together with the parents, infants who are to be baptized will need sponsors to present them for baptism. Sponsors are also tasked to help the baptized person lead a Christian life and fulfill the obligations that come with it.
5. Infants can only have one male sponsor or one female sponsor, or one of each.
6. The parents, guardians, or in their absence, the pastor or minister who has the aptitude and intention are the ones to designate an infant’s sponsors.
Requirements for Adult Baptisms
To be baptized, adults – including children who reached the age of reason – will need to be admitted to the Catechumenate through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). During this time, the individual will be educated, prepared, and given proper instruction in the faith and traditions of the church. According to the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, this process is “meant to form them into the fullness of the Christian life and to become disciples of Jesus, their teacher.”
To know more about what goes into the RCIA process and when you can request baptism, check out our piece on how to join the Catholic church for unbaptized individuals. Now, in terms of requirements, the same rules apply to how many sponsors an infant and adult can have. The method will also be the same, either by immersion or by pouring and pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity.
The other requirements for adults to receive the sacrament of baptism are the following:
1. Adults must manifest their intention to receive the sacrament of baptism and should be instructed about the meaning and obligations of being a Christian. They are also urged to be sorry for their sins and are to be “tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate.” (Code of Canon Law, 865)
2. An adult has to be baptized in his/her parish church. But if there’s a reasonable or grave cause, then he/she may get baptized in the nearest church or oratory, a private house, or a hospital.
3. For those ages 15 and up, they are referred to the diocesan bishop, so he can perform the sacrament once he deemed them ready.
Guidelines for Choosing Sponsors
There are also certain guidelines on choosing sponsors for baptism. For instance, sponsors should not be the father or mother of the one being baptized, at least 16 years old, and Catholics who have already received the sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation. Ideally, they should also be leading a life of faith and good role models for the one being baptized. They can’t be bound by any canonical penalty as well.
Take note that baptized persons who belong to a non-Catholic ecclesial community cannot participate in the celebration unless they are participating together with a Catholic sponsor and only as a witness.