By Rev. John J. Burke.
"Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the kingdom of God" (John iii 5).
WHILE most Christians admit the necessity of Baptism for adults, the Catholic Church is alone in insisting upon the practice of infant Baptism. This practice is in accordance with the teaching of St. John, quoted above. It is also in accordance with apostolic teaching and practice.
We read in the 16th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles that St. Paul baptized Lydia "and her household," and that the keeper of the prison was converted and "was baptized and presently all his family." Among these families it is but reasonable to suppose that there were some infants.
Infant Baptism was the practice of the apostles; it was the practice of the Christians of the early Church, as Origen tells us. The Church received the tradition from the apostles to give Baptism to infants, and it has been the practice of the Church from the time of Christ until the present.
St. Paul tells us that Adam's sin was transmitted to all his posterity. "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death, and so death passed unto all men in whom all have sinned" (Rom. v. 12). Every infant, according to St. Paul, is born to sin—original sin. But as Baptism takes away original sin, and as nothing defiled can enter heaven (Apoc. xxi.), Baptism of infants is necessary to open for them the gates of heaven.
Baptism may be validly administered by dipping, sprinkling, or pouring. The method practised in this part of Christendom is pouring the water on the head of the person to be baptized, saying at the same time: "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."
The reasonableness of the practice of baptizing infants will be evident if we remember that Christ taught the necessity of baptism for all when He said: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the kingdom of God"; and that He declared little children capable of entering into the kingdom of God when He said: "Suffer little children to come unto Me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Now, if infants are capable of entering heaven (and Christ so declares), they must be capable of receiving Baptism, without which Christ says no one can enter the kingdom of God.
While in adults faith and sorrow for sin are required before receiving Baptism, no disposition is required in infants.
They contracted original sin without their knowledge; without their knowledge they are freed from it.
By Baptism they are made heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
They can be made heirs of property, of a kingdom on earth without their consent; why not also of the kingdom of heaven?
Baptism is the first of the seven sacraments which the Church confers upon man. It cleanses us from original sin (actual sin also if the recipient be guilty of any), makes us Christians, children of God, and heirs of heaven. It prepares us for the reception of the other sacraments. By Baptism we all contracted the obligation of believing and practising the doctrines of Jesus Christ as taught us by the true Church. We fulfil this obligation by leading a truly Christian life.
This is taken from Reasonableness of Catholic Ceremonies and Practices.
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