Baptism FAQs

What is Baptism?

Baptism is the foundation of the whole of Christian life.  It is the gateway to life in the Holy Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments.  Baptism is a one-off event and anyone who has not previously been baptised may seek Baptism.  Through Baptism a person is reborn as a daughter or son of God.  It is through Baptism that an individual begins his or her formal relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church.

The phrase to baptise means to “plunge” or “immerse”.  The immersion in water, or alternatively the pouring of water over the person’s head, symbolises the baptised person’s union with the death of Jesus.  Just as Christ was raised from the dead, the baptised person arises from the water as a “new creature”, a member of the Church.

Baptism consists of a person’s immersion in water three times or of the pouring of water over the person’s head three times, reciting the words, “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

Those who have been validly baptised in another Christian tradition and are seeking to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, do not need to be baptised again.

Why do those being baptised wear white?

White is symbolic of purity. It is through baptism that our sins are washed away and we become ‘clean’ because of Jesus Christ.

Why do we have a baptism candle?

The candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened the new believer.  In Christ, the baptised are “the light of the world”.

Can our child still be baptised if one of us isn’t Catholic?

Baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the Church, and bringing children into the family of God through the Church requires parental consent, even if one of them is not themselves baptised.

The non-Catholic parent can have a part to play in the baptismal ceremony, and is free to choose the extent to which he or she is involved.

Must both godparents be Catholic?

One godparent must be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the Eucharist, and who lives a life worthy of the role that he or she is about to undertake.

It is possible to have just the one godparent.

Alternatively, an Eastern Orthodox Christian may be a godparent (along with the Catholic godparent).  Apart from this situation, as long as one godparent is Catholic, it is permissible for a non-Catholic to act as witness to your child’s baptism.

It is not possible for an unbaptized person to act as godparent or witness.

Does the Catholic Church place any restrictions on who may be a godparent at Baptism?

There must be at least one person who is a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the Eucharist, who is at least 16 years old.  The minister of Baptism may decide that there is a just reason why a person who is not yet 16 may be godparent.

As long as one godparent is Catholic, it is permissible for a non-Catholic to act as witness to a child’s baptism.

Does a child whose parents are not married have the right to be baptised in the Catholic Church?

All that the Church requires is that the parents undertake to do their best to bring the child up as Catholic.  Provided that there is a well-founded hope that the child will be brought up as Catholic, the child may be baptised.

Does their not being married affect their willingness or ability to give a child a catholic upbringing?

During the preparation for baptism the parents might be asked to consider this.

Nothing is said on the baptismal certificate about the status of the parents.  Sometimes a confidential note is made in the parish baptismal register.

More questions may be answered here.  (Opens in a new window)

Catholic Enquiry Centre