It’s no accident that the longest of the introduction’s thirty-one sections is devoted to the role of the parents. Parents are an essential link in the cultivation and rearing of new believers.
5. Because of the natural relationships, parents have a ministry and a responsibility in the baptism of infants more important than those of the godparents.
The rite gives fairly detailed instructions and suggestions:
1. Before the celebration of the sacrament, it is of great importance that parents, moved by their own faith or with the help of friends or other members of the community, should prepare to take part in the rite with understanding. They should be provided with suitable means such as books, letters addressed to them, and catechisms designed for families. The parish priest (pastor) should make it his duty to visit them or see that they are visited; he should try to gather a group of families together and prepare them for the coming celebration by pastoral counsel and common prayer.
Some interesting points above. If the parents aren’t moved by faith, the help of friends or the community is invoked, not the extended family. Books, and sometimes catechisms I’ve seen. How many times does a parish send a letter personally addressed? The pastor is entrusted with the responsibility of visiting them or setting up a group of peers.
2. It is very important that the parents be present at the celebration in which their child is reborn in water and the Holy Spirit.
One would think this goes without saying, but didn’t the extraordinary form emphasize the role of godparent?
3. In the celebration of baptism, the father and mother have special parts to play. They listen to the words addressed to them by the celebrant, they join in prayer along with the congregation, and they exercise a genuine ministry when: a. they publicly ask that the child be baptized; b. they sign their child with the sign of the cross after the celebrant; c. they renounce Satan and recite the profession of faith; d. they (and especially the mother) carry the child to the font; e. they hold the lighted candle; f. they are blessed with the prayers formulated specifically for mothers and fathers.
Six aspects of the baptism liturgy involve the “ministry” of parents, over and above their ordinary role as active participants of the liturgy.
What if one of the parents isn’t Catholic or even Christian? Then:
4. A parent unable to make the profession of faith (for example, not being a Catholic) may keep silent. Such a parent, when making the request for the child’s baptism is asked only to make arrangements or at least to give permission for the child’s instruction in the faith of its baptism.
After the baptism, the parents continue in responsibilities: to assist in the knowledge of God, preparation for the sacraments (note the order), always assisted by the pastor:
5. After baptism it is the responsibility of the parents, in their gratitude to God and in fidelity to the duty they have undertaken, to assist the child to know God, whose adopted child it has become, to prepare the child to receive confirmation and participate in the holy eucharist. In this duty they are again to be helped by the parish priest (pastor) by suitable means.
Sacramental preparation is a parental responsibility. Schools, clergy, catechists are to assist. Anybody see anything missing from this list?