Lumen Fidei 43

Today, a look at infant baptism. I remember this being an issue more in dispute about a generation ago. Sometimes there were alternate whiffs of magicalism or pelagianism about it. Baptism could be a decision (rather than an election). Baptize just in case.

43. The structure of baptism, its form as a rebirth in which we receive a new name and a new life, helps us to appreciate the meaning and importance of infant baptism. Children are not capable of accepting the faith by a free act, nor are they yet able to profess that faith on their own; therefore the faith is professed by their parents and godparents in their name. Since faith is a reality lived within the community of the Church, part of a common “We”, children can be supported by others, their parents and godparents, and welcomed into their faith, which is the faith of the Church; this is symbolized by the candle which the child’s father lights from the paschal candle. The structure of baptism, then, demonstrates the critical importance of cooperation between Church and family in passing on the faith. Parents are called, as Saint Augustine once said, not only to bring children into the world but also to bring them to God, so that through baptism they can be reborn as children of God and receive the gift of faith.[Cf. De Nuptiis et Concupiscentia I, 4, 5: PL 44, 413: "Habent quippe intentionem generandi regenerandos, ut qui ex eis saeculi filii nascuntur in Dei filios renascantur".] Thus, along with life, children are given a fundamental orientation and assured of a good future; this orientation will be further strengthened in the sacrament of Confirmation with the seal of the Holy Spirit.

My family of origin on my mother’s side was full of evangelical Christians. But whether baptism is celebrated at 15 days or 15 years, the challenge is the same: how to take advantage of the “orientation” of faith so as to strengthen a young person and develop in them the life of a disciple of Jesus?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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