RCIA CLASS 12:
BAPTISM AND CONFIRMATION
I. Baptism is the sacrament that begins one's life as a Christian, and in Catholic baptism, one's life as a Catholic.
A. At the time of Jesus, there was the baptism of John the Baptizer, which was also likely done by others. This baptism signified repentance, but did not itself confer forgiveness of sins or adopted sonship with God.
1. John the Baptist
said that he was only baptizing with water, which was a symbol of repentance.
He told of one who would come to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
See Matt. 3:11-12; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:3, 15-17; John 1:25-27, 33.
2. Despite the protests of John the Baptist, Jesus received this baptism from him "to fulfill all righteousness."
- Theologians explain
that Jesus did so: (1) to confer upon the symbol of water His holiness,
grace, and forgiveness so that that symbol may now be the channel of
such gifts in the future; (2) to represent the human race, who needed
to be cleansed of sins; and (3) to show the rest of humanity an example
for the future. See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa
Theologica Part III, question 39, article 1.
B. Jesus then commanded
His disciples to baptize, both before and after His resurrection.
See John 3:22-24; Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16. After Pentecost, the
Apostles recognized the importance of baptism, and immediately considered
it crucial at the beginning of the life of faith. See Acts. 2:38,
41, 8:12-16, 38, 9:18, 10:48, 16:15, 33; Rom. 6:3-4, 1 Cor. 1:13-16,
12:13; Gal. 3:27.
C. Baptism has several related effects, all of which center around being on our path to heaven.
1. First, baptism eliminates original sins from the new Christian. Original sin is that flaw, stain, and break from God caused by the fall of our first parents. It is like a spiritual genetic defect, not our personal fault, but still damaging our relationship with God. See, e.g., Catechism 402-406; Rom. 5:12-21. For those beyond infancy, baptism also confers forgiveness of all personal sins.
- Original sin
in turn caused several other effects, including concupiscence (i.e.
the difficulty in doing what is right and avoiding evil), the difficulty
at prayer and even thinking clearly, the susceptibility to decay and
death, and the disharmony between humanity and nature. These
effects still remain after baptism, although the curing of original
sin begins the process of eliminating them.
2. Baptism makes
us temples of the Holy Spirit. See 1 Cor. 3:16-18, 6:19.
In particular, at baptism, one receives the beginnings of the gifts
of the Holy Spirit, the ability to act at an elevated level, the level
3. Baptism makes
us adopted sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ. See,
e.g., Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 3:27, 4:1-6. By being adopted sons and
daughters of God, we are all called to be in the family of God.
Catholic baptism (or Confirmation) brings one into membership with the
Church as the family of God.
4. These effects
were shown at the baptism of Jesus: (1) the heavens were opened, reflecting
the end of the division between heaven and earth; (2) the Spirit descended
upon Jesus reflecting the fact that, through baptism, we become dwelling
places of the Spirit; and (3) a voice came from the heavens, saying,
"You are My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased," reflecting
the adoption into the family of God. See Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11;
5. We can sense
the physical waters of baptism as the channel through which the invisible
waters of heaven flow down to cleanse and sanctify the new Christian.
See Is. 44:3-5; Ez. 36:25-27; John 3:5.
D. The essential rite of Baptism involves either an immersion with water or pouring water over the head of the one being baptized, with the appropriate words reflecting baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
1. Water has always been the essential material in this sacrament.
- In Bible,
water symbolized: (1) the Spirit at the first creation, see Gen. 1:2;
(2) renewal and restoration with new creation after the flood, see 1
Pet. 3:20; (3) freedom from slavery in the Land of Egypt, see Ex. 14:10-31;
(4) the entrance into the Promised Land through the waters of the Jordan,
see Josh. 3:14-17; (5) the cleansing from impurities, as in the prophesy
of Ezekiel and Psalm 51, see Ez. 36:25-27. Ps. 51:1, 9; and (6) the
waters of repentance, as with the baptism of John, see Matt. 3:1-12.
- Naturally, water
is associated with life, cleansing, and mystery, as with the waters
of the ocean.
2. The words must refer to baptism and to the Trinity. In the Latin rite, the words are "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." See Matt. 28:19.
- In Greek,
baptizein, means to immerse, and the sacrament, through the natural
waters, gives one immersion into the supernatural water of cleanness
and life, and into the mystery and power of the Spirit.
- As with the other
sacraments, we invoke the name of the Trinity, indicating the personal
relationship that the newly baptized person in receiving. At baptism,
the new Christian receives the gifts of faith, hope and charity (even
if an infant cannot use them yet), all of which are ways of being children
E. In the Catholic Church, the baptismal rite also uses other symbols that help bring out the full meaning of baptism.
1. In the case of infant baptism, the parents formally name their child, or the new Christian takes a name because God calls each of us by name. See John 10:3. Ideally, the name is connected to a saint or a virtue.
- The parents
make a promise to uphold their roles as Christian parents, including
raising their child in the ways of the faith.
2. There are readings from Scripture,
giving the wisdom of God.
3. There are
intercessions and prayers with the saints, showing the power of the
Christians life and the communion with the Church in heaven.
4. The can be
a prebaptismal anointing with the Oil of Catechumens. Olive or
similar oils were used in ancient times to heal wounds and to prepare
for battles or athletic contests. Likewise, the Oil of Catechumens,
blessed by the Bishop, symbolizes healing and preparation for the contest
for earthly life.
5. The water
is blessed, if it has not been so already, and thus made into holy water.
Holy water, commonly at the entrance to churches, is meant among other
things to remind us of our own baptism.
6. After the baptism, there is the anointing with chrism. In ancient Israel, priests, kings and (in some cases) prophets were anointed. Each new Christian is given a special mission by God, and that anointing reflects the commissioning.
and Chistos in Greek are terms meaning "the anointed one" in Hebrew
and Greek. Jesus is called Messiah and Christ because He fulfilled
these roles completely as the Anointed One of God. We are
meant to share in the mission of Christ, and so all the newly baptized
7. There is usually
also the white garment, reflecting the newness of life with Christ.
See Matt. 22:12, Rev. 6:11.
8. There can
be a blessing of the mouth and ears, reflecting the ability to hear
the word of God and witness to it. The blessing is called the
Ephphatha rite, from the word in Aramaic meaning, "Be opened," the
word Christ used when healing the mute and deaf man. See Mark
F. Godparents are meant to help the new Christian (and if the new Christian is a child, help his parents) in growing in the ways of the faith. At least on godparent, either a godfather or godmother, is required, but two godparents, a man and woman, is preferable.
1. The godparents
need to be baptized and confirmed practicing Catholics, for they are
meant to be models of the Catholic life.
2. If there is
one godparent, another non-Catholic Christian may be a "Christian
witness" if he is a practicing member of another Christian communion.
1. It is clear
that a person who intends to be baptized, but dies before baptism is
credited with the merits of baptism.
II. Confirmation is the sacrament of Christian witness, which complete the gifts of the Holy Spirit and gives the new Christian the fullness of membership in the Church.
A. Baptism is more associated with Christ's first calling of His disciples, saying such words as "Come, follow Me." See Matt. 4:18-22, 9:9; Mark 1:16-28, 3:13-14; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-51. Confirmation is more associated with Pentecost, in which the disciples began their mission to all the world. See Acts 2.
- Baptism deals more
with one's own conversion as a disciple of Christ and a new son or
daughter of God, although there is certainly a call to be a witness.
Confirmation completes this internal transformation, and emphasizes
more the call to be a witness to the faith before the world. The
transformation is associated with receiving the fullness of the Spirit,
and in particular the completion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- At Pentecost,
Mary, the Apostles and the other early Christians received the full
power of the Holy Spirit and, with that power, began converting people
from all over the world. Confirmation likewise gives great power
to live a Spirit-filled life and thus transform the world.
B. In the Acts of the Apostles, there is a distinction between baptism and the "laying on of hands," which confers the fullness of the Spirit. See Acts 8:4-17, 19:5-6; see also Heb. 6:2 (distinguishing between baptism and the "laying on of hands." In the former case, the deacon Philip could baptize, but not lay hands on the new Christians in Samaria; it was the Apostles who laid hands on the new Christians, giving them the fullness of the Spirit.
- The sacrament of
Confirmation deepens and strengthens our Baptismal gifts and callings
by deepening our status as sons and daughters of God, uniting us more
with Christ, and completing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It thus
makes us full members of the Church and gives us greater responsibilities
as soldiers, ambassadors, or representatives of the Church and, therefore,
Faustus of Riez (in modern day France) preached a Pentecost homily around
460 that presented two images used by the Church ever since. First,
he said that a man may join an army at one point, but then receives
arms for battle only later after receiving some training. Second,
he said that a child may inherit property at one point, but only later
be able to exercise control over it. Likewise, baptism truly makes
us a member of the church and gives us an inheritance with Christ, but
we receive the fullness of responsibilities and authority later.
C. We often refer to the effects of Confirmation in terms of completing the "gifts of the Holy Spirit," which allow one to live an inspired, or Spirit-filled, life. These gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord allow one to rise above what is ordinarily called good to the level of sharing in the life of the angels and saints. The prophesies of Isaiah refer most directly to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. See Is. 11:1-3. That prophesy refers to the Anointed One receiving these gifts through the Spirit, but Jesus Christ promised to send His Spirit upon all the faithful. See, e.g., Luke 10:10-12; John 14:25-26, 15:26-27, 16:13-15; Acts 1:4-5. And thus, all Christians are called to share in these gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- The gifts of
the Holy Spirit are distinguished from what are called charismatic gifts
(e.g., special abilities in speaking, teaching, artistry, music, leadership
etc.) that are given to specific people for the sake of the whole Church.
See Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-11. Confirmation also supports these
charismatic gifts, although the effects will be different in each person.
D. Confirmation is ordinarily conferred by the bishop (in the line of the Apostles), although a bishop can delegate a priest to confer this sacrament.
1. In the Latin rite, Confirmation is generally given significantly later than baptism, at the age of reason (about 7) or a later time, in order for the bishop more easily to confer it. In the Eastern rites, baptism is usually conferred by a priest right after baptism to connect it with baptism more.
2. Even in the Latin
rite, if anyone baptized (infant, child or adult) is dying, a priest
can and should confer the sacrament of confirmation. As with baptism,
consciousness is not required, although for one above the age of reason,
there must be an openness to the sacrament.
E. The sacrament is conferred through: (1) a laying on of hands; and (2) anointing with chrism, a special oil blessed by a bishop, usually at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday.
1. The laying
on of hands, which seems to be the essence of the original rite, confers
the fullness of the Spirit upon the newly confirmed. This symbol
is also used for the Mass (calling upon the Holy Spirit to consecrate
the bread and wine and make them the Eucharist), Anointing of the Sick
(calling for the strength of God to come upon the sick person) and Holy
Orders (calling upon the Spirit and the strength of God to come upon
the cleric.) The prayer that the Bishop uses in the Latin rite
refers to God conferring the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit
upon the confirmandi.
2. As noted above, chrism is used at infant baptism, symbolizing the priestly, kingly, and prophetic roles of the new Christian. Here, that symbol become a sacrament and confers those roles in fullness upon the confirmation candidate.
- In the Latin
rite, the bishop or priest says, "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy
Spirit." The seal, or mark, permanently configures one as a
witness to Christ, and goes with one into eternity. The seal confirms
and increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which allow one to live
a life of heroic virtue.
F. The Confirmation
candidates also take on a new name, which must be associated with a
saint or a virtue. The idea is that a new name reflects their
new status, as with the change in the names of Abram to Abraham, Jacob
to Israel, Peter to Simon and (at least in common use) Saul to Paul.
Religious orders give a new name upon profession of the new brothers
and sisters as well. See also Rev. 2:17.
G. The Confirmation candidates also have sponsors, who will help them grow further in the ways of the faith. It is preferable, although not required, that a candidate's sponsor be one of his baptismal godparents.