Infant baptism

Have you ever been asked as a Catholic why you baptize infants in your Church? A friend confronted me with this question and I answered him with a question; what is baptism? Anyone with a good understanding of what baptism is will not question infant baptism.infant4 The Catholic Church teaches that “baptism is a sacrament that washes away original sin, makes us children of God and members of the Church”; that is what baptism is.

One question some of our none Catholic friends often ask is, is it in the bible? is infant baptism in the bible? Well, to begin with, not everything is in the bible (Jn. 21:25) and secondly, if you believe that everything is in the bible, then show me where it is written that infants should not be baptized. The bible is even more in support of infant baptism than its rejection; yes, Jesus said to the apostles, “go, then, to all people everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19). They were to go to all people and not some people, they were to baptize all people and not some people. Also, in the book of the Acts of the apostles, the bible tells us how an entire household were baptized (Acts 16:33), no one was left out of the baptism but the entire household were baptized.

Every Christian believe that we were all born with a fallen human nature, and so, the Catholic church teaches that, “born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, Children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be free from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the Children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.” CCC1250. If you as Christian parents are baptized and you believe in the necessity of baptism, how good parents will you be if your child is left out of this blessing? Baptism washes away original sin and initiates us into the body of Christ, the Church. How comfortable will you be if you are initiated into the body of Christ and your child is left out? Baptism is a sacrament and a very important one at that. infant3In the Catholic Church we have seven Sacrament and baptism is the very first one, it opens the door to the others just as circumcision initiates the Jews into the covenant of God (Gen.17:12). This covenantal sign is supported by the Mosaic law and demonstrated by Joseph and Mary as they circumcise their Son (Lk.2:21). In the New Testament however, the bible tells us that baptism is a deeper, richer and stronger form of circumcision; “in union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by man, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consist of being freed from the power of this sinful self. For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in Baptism you were raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death.” (Col. 2:11-12). The fallen human nature must be raised to life again in Christ Jesus through baptism; infants are not to be denied of this salvific gift of God.

Faith is required in baptism and these infants lack this faith. In the Catholic Church, infants are baptized based on the faith of their parents and God-parents. The parents and God-parents believe in God and the power of baptism and so, shortly before the baptism proper, the parents and God-parents profess the faith of the Church and the infants are baptized based on their profession of faith just as Jesus was circumcised and dedicated based on the faith of his ‘parents.’

In the Catholic Church therefore, we baptize infants to restore their fallen human nature to Christ Jesus (washing away of original sin) as well as to make them children of God and members of the Church.

Know your faith, understand your faith and share your faith.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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