Letter to Parents About Baptism

Chelsea Houghton - Baptism


Dear Parents Who Haven’t Baptized Their Children,

I’ve been speaking to your parent/grandparent/relative/friend over the past few weeks in the lead up to, and at, my son’s baptism. They made a comment in conversation that they wished you would baptize your child and that they were worried about it. Now I’m sure you get comments from them all the time and that every man and his dog wants to have a say in your parenting, but as a young parent I want you to know a bit more about baptism.

People these days seem to be putting off baptizing their children for some time. Sometimes it’s only done just before they need to get into that Catholic high school they want to send them to. Maybe this is because there is a lower infant mortality rate, because people are practicing their faith less fervently, because many Protestants baptize later, or because people seem to trust today that an infant wouldn’t be excluded from heaven.

Baptism isn’t just another ceremony, a big fuss of taking your child to church and then having to organise something to have afterwards. The Catechism calls baptism \”the priceless grace of becoming a child of God.\” Baptism is receiving the grace for salvation. This gift speaks of the love that God has for every individual he has created and of his desire to have everyone in a relationship with Him, a relationship that will grow from infancy with the beautiful faith of a child.

Baptism allows the child to become a member of the Church – the largest institution in the world, found internationally and with a rich tradition that allows unlimited opportunity and experiences (after all this is God’s church). Opportunities and community that don’t come through being “nothing”.

People often say that they won’t baptize their child but will support them in their decision later on if they choose to go down that route. As a child I received the sacraments later in my teen years, rather than in infancy. I found that much harder than if I had grown up in the faith. It was frustrating waiting a few years, wanting to receive the sacraments that would allow me to greater live the faith I had chosen and conform to the faith of my wider family. It was a struggle to find someone to work with to organise receiving catechesis and then the actual sacraments.

And while Baptism is a great gift, Baptism alone surely isn’t enough. Faith, by nature, grows by hearing and seeing. As part of the ceremony of Baptism the parents are individually blessed to receive graces to aid in the nurturing of the child. In my opinion, with parenting being one of the biggest challenges that I will undertake in my life, every grace is needed to help with all that we face in trying to grow the best child we can.

So you may presume your child will reach heaven without Baptism. But through Baptism you can have confidence in knowing that your child will be re-claimed for Christ and welcomed into Christ’s kingdom. To quote Catholic writer Holly Rutchik, as a parent \”…even when my child’s not with me, I need to know where she is.\”

There is some urgency about Baptism. So much that Canon law says that parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks and if in danger of death, it is to be baptized without any delay. Though it says something that as a passionate Catholic I only learnt of this urgency a few weeks ago, even after my son had been in Neonatal Intensive Care.

You’ll have to excuse that this is written by a mother and not a theologian. This is merely why I think Baptism is something important and person-changing for my children.


A Young Mother

© 2013. Chelsea Houghton. All Rights Reserved.

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16 thoughts on “Letter to Parents About Baptism”

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  3. Except that if a parent is not prepared to take a child to Mass and teach the child the faith, there are huge problems with infant baptism. It’s not just some rite of passage or something that you collect when you pass go. You don’t do it just to please grandma. Baptism is forever. It needs to be taken seriously or not taken.

  4. You can always baptize your child if there is some sort of ridiculous delay, then get him rebaptized at a later date.

    1. My mother is paranoid about losing babies– two of her siblings never made it home– so all of her grandkids have had emergency type baptisms while still in the hospital.

    2. I love your passion about Baptism, Scott, but I have to respectfully make a couple of corrections to your suggestion so that people don’t get misled on what’s possible and what is desirable.

      1. You are totally right that infant baptism is strongly urged by the Church “within the first weeks after birth” (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction On Infant Baptism, Pastoralis actio).

      2. Baptism by laypeople is reserved for cases of grave emergency, and even then there is always the preference for the parish priest to be entrusted with the rite of baptism (Code of Canon Law 530.1).

      3. Only those who have not been baptized may receive the sacrament of Baptism (Catechism 1246). There isn’t such a thing as being “rebaptized.” Baptism is a one time event.

      4. Always keep in mind that the Church entrusts children who die without Baptism to God’s mercy, to “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’ (Catechism 1261).

  5. Maybe this is because there is a lower infant mortality rate, because people are practicing their faith less fervently, because many Protestants baptize later, or because people seem to trust today that an infant wouldn’t be excluded from heaven.

    Two problems:
    1) Finding a godparent that will do a GOOD job– many of us grew up with godparents that, at best, did nothing; some did active damage.
    2) Setting up the actual baptism.
    I spent nearly an hour explaining to a priest that already disliked the godparent I’d chosen– not because she isn’t orthodox, but because his notion of what she should offer the Church didn’t line up with what her business’ finances would allow– that I was not trying to set up the required class for the baptism, I had the paperwork that I’d done it, and no I couldn’t just drive over to take it again because we’re a day and a half away.

    If a parish is having trouble getting folks in for the Sacraments, they might be helped by looking at what roadblocks are in the way. Example: does the phone number for those who want to do pre-marriage classes actually go to someone who will return calls? Does the secretary just hand out phone numbers for the various Sacraments, and priests refuse to talk to anyone who has called the line, several times, and not gotten a response in weeks?

  6. Thanks for posting this.
    Up until 2 years ago, we had an associate pastor, who spoke fluent Spanish, was also responsible for ministering to our Hispanic parishioners. (At the time we only had two full time priests at our parish)
    Frequently he’d hear from them about relatives wanting to come from their home country for the baby’s baptism but it was challenging. Money and getting a passport and necessary paperwork to travel were concerns.

    Of interest, if you have family or friends who are Eastern rite Catholic, infants receive baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation at one time. “How” and “where” are the emphasis for Eastern Catholics.

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  8. Protestants believe that baptism is an outward sign of an inner transformation. It is a public declaration of repentance from sin (dying to sin)and the desire for the empowering of the Holy Spirit (to live for God and Him alone). This strikes me as rather different from the points you outlined above. I am not against infant baptism but just interested in the reasons why baptism is important overall. Interesting!

    1. What about the many Protestant Christians who do practise the baptism of infants? Baptism is the equivalent of the O.T. circumcision, the sign of being brought within the covenant, “a sign and seal of ingrafting into Himself (Christ), of remission of sins by His blood, and regeneration by His Spirit..” “Infants descending from parents,either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to Him, sre in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.” That is from the Westminster Confession: I rejoice in my infant baptism where God put His hand of grace on me.

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  10. Great article, Chelsea! The other important point is that we are all born with the stain of original sin (handed down by the sin of Adam and Eve). Only baptism erases original sin through grace, leaving an indelible spiritual mark on the soul.

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