Baptism is the gateway to the other sacraments. It is a sacrament of initiation, as are confirmation and holy communion. To be a Christian you must be baptized. By being baptized you bare the name of Christ. You have a new identity, you become a member of the Christian community, and part of the Body of Christ.
During the Baptismal Rite we get new clothes (white garment), a lighted candle to show the way, water to cleanse us and help us grow, oil for strength, even a companion for the journey (sponsor). But this is only the beginning of the journey of faith.
We must take care not to restrict baptism to one single moment, or overlook that part of the sacrament which sees baptism as the beginning of a journey.The journey always begins with an invitation, a call from God through the Christian community to live the Gospel as a committed disciple of Christ.
In the case of infant baptism it is the parents who respond to the invitation and who take on the responsibility to raise their child in the ways of faith. This involves living a Christian life; teaching the child how to pray; having religious symbols in the home; attending church; sending their child to a Catholic school; and so forth. The church must have a “well founded hope” that these responsibilities are going to be fulfilled before a baptism may proceed.
Parents inquiring about infant baptism need to contact the parish office to set-up an appointment with one of the parish priests. Following this they will be asked to attend a baptism preparation class. It is then that a date can be set for the baptism. Infant baptism is celebrated on the second and fourth Sunday of the month.
In the case of adult baptism, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the process they must enter to receive full initiation into the Church. The R.C.I.A. program at St. Thomas More Church begins in September and concludes at Pentecost. This includes attending sessions once a week, participation in various ‘Rites’ throughout the year, celebrating the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil, and thereafter, living the life of a committed Christian.
Children seven years or older, may the enter the Rite of Christian Initiation process which mirrors the Adult program.
Baptism is also an initiation into the ministry of Christ. Like Christ, we are anointed at baptism for a purpose. We are anointed with the oil of gladness and the chrism of salvation. As such we are strengthened for the lifetime journey of discipleship with Christ. To be a disciple is to be a learner, a ‘journeyer’ with others who learn together along the way.
Discipleship is built on the concept of Church as a community of followers who support one another in sharing the Spirit and mission of Jesus. That’s what we agree to when we say “yes” to baptism. We publicly admit that we have been chosen, marked, and sent on our way. The journey has just begun and Christ walks with us on that journey.