The question often comes up. here’s what the rite says:
8. As for the time of baptism, the first consideration is the welfare of the child, that it may not be deprived of the benefit of the sacrament; then the health of the mother must be considered, so that, if at all possible, she too may be present. Then, as long as they do not interfere with the greater good of the child, there are pastoral considerations, such as allowing sufficient time to prepare the parents and to plan the actual celebration in order to bring out its true character effectively. Accordingly:
- If the child is in danger of death, it is to be baptized without delay, in the manner laid down in no. 21.
- In other cases, as soon as possible – if need be, even before the child is born, the parents should be in touch with the parish priest (pastor) concerning the baptism, so that proper preparation may be made for the celebration.
- An infant should be baptized within the first weeks after birth. The conference of bishops may, for sufficiently serious pastoral reasons, determine a longer interval of time between birth and baptism.
- When the parents are not yet prepared to profess the faith or to undertake the duty of bringing up their children as Christians, it is for the parish priest (pastor), keeping in mind whatever regulations may have been laid down by the conference of bishops, to determine the time for the baptism of infants.
Many couples these days prepare for the baptism liturgy during pregnancy. Note the expectation of an early baptism. While the mother’s health is quoted as a reason, the mobility of American society means that relatives, friends, and others will arrange to attend.
9. To bring out the paschal character of baptism, it is recommended that the sacrament be celebrated during the Easter Vigil or on Sunday, when the Church commemorates the Lord’s resurrection. On Sunday, baptism may be celebrated even during Mass, so that the entire community may be present and the relationship between baptism and eucharist may be clearly seen; but this should not be done too often. Regulations for the celebration of baptism during the Easter Vigil or at Mass on Sunday will be set out later.
The rite gives a clear preference here. Easter Vigil number one. Sunday number two. How do pastors and liturgists interpret “not too often?” Are parents more reticent these days about baptism at Mass? My sense of my present parish is yes, somewhat. Which is too bad. The relationship is one of the post-conciliar aspects that still needs work.