The sacrament in which, by pouring water upon a person, or immersing in water, and using the words “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, the one baptised is cleansed of Original Sin and (in the case of one who has reached the age of reason) of actual sins, is incorporated into Christ and made a member of His Body the Church; he/she is infused with the sanctifying grace and receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
Baptism and Church History
The word ‘baptism’ comes from the Greek word ‘baptizein’ meaning to dip or immerse.
- In the time of Jesus total immersion was carried out by some Jewish groups as a sign of ritual cleansing. One of these groups was the Essenes, of whom John the Baptist was thought to be a member.
- The last thing Jesus said to his apostles was to “go . . . And make disciples of all the nations baptising them…” Mt. 18:19
- The Acts of the Apostles, tells us this is what they did –beginning on the day Pentecost after Peter’s address to the crowds. Acts 2:37-41
- It was adults who had expressed their faith in “Jesus as the Christ” who were baptised although there were some accounts of entire households such as the gaoler at Philippi Acts 16:25-33 and the entire household of Lydia. Acts 16:11-15
- Baptism was a new beginning and baptism brought about a real change in people’s lives. One example is that of Saul – who became Paul.
- As it grew, the Christian Church became a victim of persecution and hostility. A simple profession of faith in Jesus Christ no longer sufficed for those who wanted to become members of a Christian community – which was now keen to test the seriousness of those who were interested.
- First of all, people had to find a sponsor from the community who would present them for baptism after a period of preparation that lasted two to three years. In that time, the sponsor could ascertain whether the candidate was determined to change their way of life – hence their formation was more ethical than doctrinal.
- The third century document, Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, talks of this three-year period of preparation – but says it is not the time that is judged but the conduct.
- This time became known as the catechumenate and those wishing to join the Christian community were known as catechumens – a Greek word meaning “instruction”.
- Thus, in the first 200 years of Christianity, things had changed.It was no longer baptism immediately after conversion. It took three years of preparation by members of the community.
- Baptism had also become an annual celebration – linked to Easter – thus strengthening the theological link with the idea of death and resurrection to new life through the sacrament.
- By the sixth century, the baptism of infants whose parents wereChristians had become the norm. There was a shift, too, in the sacramental emphasis with baptism seen as the washing away of original sin and the promise of eternal life. The emphasis had moved away from the beginning of a new life in Christ.
- At the time, infant mortality was high, and bishops began to encourage parents not to wait for the Easter Vigil but to have their infants baptised very soon after birth to save them from dying still stained with original sin.
- The Second Vatican Council had an important effect on how the sacrament of baptism is viewed returning to St. Paul’s image of dying and rising with Christ through baptism – emphasising that, in baptism, we are implanted in the paschal mystery of Christ; we die with him, are buried with him, and we rise with him.
Baptism of Infants
Before your Child is baptised Diocesan guidelines advise that parents should attend a minimum of two pre-baptism sessions as part of a baptism preparation course. Please see below for more information.
Baptism of Older Children
- Children presented for baptism or seeking baptism between the ages of 7 and 14 are regarded as children of catechetical age. They should be prepared for the sacrament following the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Children, part of the RCIA.
- Children under the age of seven, presented for baptism by their parents, should be baptised following the usual preparation appropriate for infants – see Baptism of Infants above.
- Young people from the age of 14 should be prepared for the sacrament following the normal adult RCIA process – but do please email our Catechetical Coordinator to discuss this, in the first instance: email@example.com
Baptism of Adults
The norm for adults seeking baptism is to follow the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults in their local parish and to be baptised at the Easter Vigil when it is discerned they are ready, following the scrutinies of the RCIA.
Baptism Registration Form
Please contact the parish office for a Baptism application and Godparent form. Please complete the form carefully in block capitals and return to Number 3 Windhill. The information submitted will be used to enter your baby’s details in the Church register which is a permanent record of baptism. A Baptism certificate with the details from the register will be sent to you approximately 1 week after the ceremony. After this to comply with GDPR requirements the form will be securely shredded.
If you do not live in the parish or wish to be baptised outside of your parish
If you do not live in the parish but wish to be baptised in the Catholic Parish of Bishop’s Stortford you MUST have a letter of permission from your own local parish priest, as well as permission from Father Peter.
If you live in the parish but wish to be baptised outside of the parish, the same conditions apply and you will require a letter of permission from Father Peter (there is a separate application form for this available from the Parish Office)
Baptism Preparation Course
Parents of children to be baptised are expected to attend a Baptism preparation . The sessions normally take place at the Windhill Churches Centre (Parish Centre , a detached building behind the back of St Joseph’s Church) but due to the restrictions are now being run on line Zoom with Sophie Sullivan, our Catechetical Coordinator, and her husband Mike. The course is very relaxed. Non-Catholics are also most welcome and there are no exams or tests! It is also a perfect opportunity to meet other parents in the parish.
Places are for those whose children to be baptised in the parish only and places for attendees must be pre-booked via the Parish Office 01279 654063 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The places will be limited to a maximum of 10 couples on each course, with the dates are listed below. If you would like to attend please contact the parish office as soon as possible so that a place can be booked for you. The next two courses are:
- Monday 4 and Monday 11 October 2021, 8pm – 9.15pm
- Monday 10 and Monday 17 January 2022, 8pm – 9.15pm
If you would like to attend a course, please email the office with your name, your child’s name and their age and we will send you further details along with the Zoom link when available. If you would also like to receive a Baptism application form, we can email one to you.
When you have completed the baptism preparation course, you may like to make use of this page of follow-on resources to support you and your child as they grow in faith
Baptisms in the Catholic Parish of Bishop’s Stortford usually take place on a SUNDAY, on a date agreed by either Father Peter or Father Antonio.
There will be a maximum of ONE child at any one baptism to allow social distancing and for the sanitisation of the font.
There will be NO Baptisms during Advent or Lent
We can provisionally book a date for your child’s baptism but it will not be confirmed until after your attendance on a preparation course.
In ‘Normal’ times
Baptism at St Joseph and the English Martyrs Catholic Church will usually be at 12.30pm
Baptism at Holy Cross, Much Hadham will usually take place at 12.45pm
Baptism at Most Holy Redeemer, Sawbridgeworth will usually take place at 9am as part of the Sunday Mass – Most Holy Redeemer is currently closed until further notice
Please ensure that you are in the Church at least 15 minutes before the start of the Baptism ceremony
Canon Law is the body of laws and regulations that govern the Catholic Church and all its members
Can. 872 In so far as possible, a person to be baptised is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor
also helps the baptised person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfil faithfully the obligations inherent in it.
Can. 873 One sponsor, male or female, is sufficient; but there may be two, one of each sex.
Can. 874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person MUST:
- be designated by the one to be baptised, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this
- have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;
- be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken;
not labour under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared;
- not be the father or mother of the one to be baptised.
Can we have Non-Catholic Godparents?
See the above requirements of Canon law regarding Godparents.
A Godparent MUST be a Confirmed Catholic, who has received the Blessed Eucharist and who is a practicing Catholic. You need at least ONE Catholic Godparent. Any other person of another religion will still play an important role in the life of your Child but is recognised and recorded in the Baptism Register and on the Baptism certificate as a Christian ‘Witness’ and not a Godparent.
On the Sunday usually before the baptism your Child will be named and anointed with the oil of catechumens at one of the Sunday Masses ( that you normally attend). This is the first part of the Rite of baptism. You will need to arrange with the Parish Office which Mass you will be attending. It is nice if the Godparents can attend this but it is not compulsory for them since they may live at a great distance etc.
On the day of the Baptism
Please ensure that you are seated at least 15 minutes before the start of the ceremony. We provide a baptism candle for your child but you are also welcome to provide your own if you have a special one. The candle is lit from the Paschal (Easter) candle, symbolic of the light of Christ, to shine forth in the life of the baptised.
What the child should wear
It is important that you bring a white garment with you (a baby shawl or white blanket will suffice), which is placed over the child at the appropriate moment in the ceremony. The white garment symbolises that your Child has ‘ put on Christ’. It is symbolic of new life in Christ, to be worn throughout our lives.
It is often customary to make an offering to the Church on these occasions although there is NO charge to receive a Sacrament. A donation envelope will be available should you wish to make a contribution.
Upon completion of the Baptism Preparation Course