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One baptism

"I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Eph 4:1-6).

There is only one sacrament of Baptism. It consists of some kind of washing with water, from full immersion to something as simple as moistening one's finger and wiping a small part of the recipient's skin; while washing the person, the minister says, "I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:29).

The ordinary ministers of baptism are the ordained deacons, priests, and bishops, but, in an emergency, any human being may baptize another, regardless of the minister's age, holiness, religious affiliation, or sex, so long as the person administering Baptism understands in a general way what Baptism is and intends to baptize. In other words, people cannot be baptized by accident; the minister must have a sacramental intention.

Every person who is baptized by being washed with water and by the use of the Trinitarian formula is baptized with one and the same sacrament of Baptism. Liturgically and socially, there may be many differences between a Catholic and a non-Catholic baptism; the ordinary manner of speaking ("I was baptized Catholic" or "I was baptized Anglican") refers only to the church context, not to the effects of the sacrament.

All who are baptized are baptized into (immersed in) Jesus by the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, so there is no such thing as "Catholic Baptism" or "Methodist Baptism." All of the baptized are members of the one Body of Christ, whether they are Catholic or not. By the grace of baptism, we are all born-again brothers and sisters in the very same household of God. This is the sacramental foundation of Ecumenism.

Unitatis Redintegratio, § 3
"All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church. Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ."

Many effects

The language we use about Baptism is filled with mixed metaphors.

Image Meaning
Baptism is a bath. We are cleansed from Original Sin and personal sin.
Baptism (immersion) is a death and burial. We die with Jesus and are buried in Him. "You were buried with him in baptism ..." (cf. Col 2:12).
Baptism (immersion) is a resurrection. We die with Jesus and are buried in Him. "... you were also raised with him" (cf. Col 2:12).
Baptism is a rebirth. We are born again — we rise to new life in Jesus (Jn 3:5).
Baptism is a transition. We leave the kingdom of sin ruled by the world, the flesh, and the devil and enter the Kingdom of God.
Baptism is spiritual circumcision. "In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ" (Col. 2:11).
Baptism is an adoption. "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, 'Abba, Father!'" (Rom 8:15).
Baptism is a covenant. We vow ourselves to God and God vows Himself to us. The Trinity comes to dwell within us. We become "holy grails," living chalices filled to overflowing with the love of God.
Baptism is a seal. "But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God; he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment" (2 Cor 1:22).
Baptism is a christening. Just as Jesus was anointed (christened) not with oil but with that which oil symbolized, the Holy Spirit Himself, so we, too, are anointed in our Baptism not with oil but with the power of the Holy Spirit. In a sense, every baptized person is becomes another "christ." John the Baptist said, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. " (Lk 3:16).
Baptism is a naming. Judaism associated the giving of a name with circumcision (e.g., the naming of John the Baptist, Lk 1:59-60, and the naming of Jesus, Lk 2:21. In English, "christening" became a synonym for "naming," as in the case of the christening ceremony for ships: "I christen thee Titanic!"
Baptism is a clothing (an investiture). "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Gal 3:27).
Baptism is a Transfiguration. We are divinized; we begin to participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity. Just as there is a hidden glory in Jesus that is not visible to ordinary sight, so there is a hidden glory within us that will be revealed when we rise from the dead. The Transfiguration is not just a revelation of Jesus' glory as God, the Son, Incarnate, but a revelation of the kind of glory we will share "through Him and with Him and in Him" for all eternity.
Baptism is a spring of living water. When we are placed in the water of Baptism, the Holy Spirit becomes "a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life" (Jn 4:14).

The sanctifying (divinizing) grace given in Baptism is not a thing but a living relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit; the power of Baptism is alive and active in us at all times. The Father, Son, and Spirit dwell within us from the time of our Baptism through all eternity. The love that God lavishes on us in Baptism remains as an inexhaustible wellspring of life and love within us.

Baptism is a grafting. "Some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place" (Rom 11:17).
Baptism is an enlightenment. Gift of the candle to the baptized child.
Baptism is a gateway. Baptism leads to all of the other sacraments.

The effects of Baptism are permanent because they are eternal. Our relationship to God is changed once for all time. God gives us a new identity. We can never undo what God has done in us. We may sin against God and choose not to be saved, but that sinful choice is the choice of a born-again child of God.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The Baptism of Jesus is the model of the sacrament of Baptism.

Just as Jesus was anointed (Greek: christened) with the Holy Spirit in His baptism, so are we. Baptism causes us to be "born [again] of water and Spirit" (Jn 3:5).

The sacrament of Baptism causes us to have new life (zoe; instead of just bios. We become children of God, which means that we have a new Father and a whole new set of family relationships with the Trinity and with each other.

Mt 3:11-12
11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

Death on the Cross

Jesus called His suffering and death a "baptism" (Mark 10:38-39).

Accepting Baptism

We have to take possession of what we have been given. Protestants rightly talk about accepting Jesus as "our personal Lord and Savior." Although the effects of the sacrament are infallibly guaranteed by God Himself, we need to co-operate with God's mercy, love, and life within us. Grace is not a thing that we can put on a bookshelf or store in an attic or a garage; grace is the action of the Divine Persons in us. Their action within us call us to respond to love with love: "Love is repaid by love alone" (St. John of the Cross).

Salvation without the Sacrament of Baptism

"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:16).

God can act outside the commandments that He imposes on the Church. The Church must baptize in order to incorporate new members into the Body of Christ; God can act in a sovereign fashion outside of the boundaries of the visible Church.

  • All of the saints of the Old Testament, for whom Jesus opened the gates of Heaven in the [The Harrowing of Hell|"harrowing of Hell,"]] especially Moses and Elijah, who appeared with Jesus in glory in the Transfiguration. Christian tradition has sometimes honored Isaiah and Elijah as saints.
  • John the Baptist.
  • St. Joseph.
  • Good thief: No water Baptism; no Eucharist; no Confirmation; no Scripture. "Remember me when you come into your Kingdom."
  • St. Ann and St. Joachim, the parents of Mary.
CCC #1257
The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.[1] He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.[2] Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.[3] The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
CCC #1258
The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.
CCC #1259
For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.
CCC #1260
"Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."[4] Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
CCC #1261
As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"[5] allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

Confession before Baptism

Baptism is the foundation of all of the other sacraments because by Baptism, we become members of the Body of Christ. Until we are incorporated into the Body, we cannot benefit from the functions of the Body.

This means that the sacrament of Reconciliation cannot be received until after an adult is baptized.

But this does not mean that the person about to be Baptized cannot do an examination of conscience (a "fearless and searching inventory" in 12-Step terminology), make an act of contrition, and discuss their past with a priest in a confidential setting (AA's Fifth Step: "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs"). This is consistent with the admonition to "Repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38). The candidate needs to understand that this act of repentance and confession is slightly different from the sacrament of Reconciliation, with Baptism itself taking the place of sacramental absolution.

Breaking with sin

"Do you reject the glamor of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?"

Canon Law

"Did Pope Francis baptize a baby whose parents aren’t married? 12 things to know and share."
The Code of Canon Law states:
For an infant to be baptized licitly:
1. the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;
2. there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason [Can. 868 §1].
Thus for a baby to be baptized licitly (lawfully), there must be “a founded hope” that the child will be “brought up in the Catholic religion.”


Benedict's message for Lent, 2011. During Lent, we meditate on how we are joined with Jesus in His suffering and death so that we may also be joined with Him in His resurrection.

Baptism is not just something that happened to us a long time ago in a faraway place. We are baptized into (immersed in) Jesus NOW, and through Him, we participate in His life with His Father and His Spirit.

Baptism infuses us with the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and love.

Our new life in Christ is the foundation of all of the other sacraments. We use the power of Baptism in Confession, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Priesthood, and Anointing of the Sick.

Infant Baptism

Our culture has rightly repudiated arranged marriages and child marriages.

Marriage requires free consent of the two people who are vowing themselves to each other.

Baptism is a kind of marriage to the Triune God. The parents and godparents pledge the child to God before the child has the power to decide for itself whether it wants to accept the marriage covenant. As children grow in spiritual freedom, they must ratify and unpack the graces that have surely been given to them in the sacrament. There is nothing automatic about this response to grace. It is a personal decision that only the person can make for themselves — the person is sovereign, by God's creation of their spiritual identity and freedom. No one else can take a bath for us; no one else can decide for us that we will surrender to the saving and sanctifying power of Baptism for us.


  1. Cf. Jn 3:5.
  2. Cf. Mt 28:19-20; cf. Council of Trent (1547) DS 1618; LG 14; AG 5.
  3. Cf. Mk 16:16.
  4. GS 22 § 5; cf. LG 16; AG 7.
  5. Mk 10 14; cf. 1 Tim 2:4.