Baptism in the Catholic Church

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The first sacrament of initiation, prerequisite of all the others, is baptism. The word baptism is rooted in the Greek language, meaning a dipping in or under water or, more commonly, washing. This is more than fitting considering the effects of the sacrament.

Before the official institution of baptism as a sacrament by Christ, converts to Judaism were baptized by Saint John the Baptist as an external sign of reconciliation and repentance, adding their own words of atonement. The first baptism had no sacramental qualities, but Our Lord Himself received this first baptism in order to show the necessity for His modification and institution of the sacrament of baptism. This institution is said to have taken place at the very time of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River. As St. John conducted the material part of the process, the three persons of the Trinity completed the form and the Heavens opened to reveal the Holy Spirit, a sign of the effects of baptism. John baptized with water, but Christ and His apostles baptized with the Holy Spirit, indicated in the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew, verses eighteen through twenty.

There are four things crucial to the administration of the sacrament of baptism. The matter, in this case water, may be applied by way of immersion, aspersion (sprinkling) or infusion (soak) – three variations of flowing water making contact with a recipient’s skin. Secondly, the form must be uttered by the minister, baptizing the recipient in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Every sacrament also requires a minister. Ordinarily, a priest or bishop would perform the rite, however, a deacon may do it, and in cases of necessity, a lay person, even if he has no affiliation with the Faith and is himself in a state of sin. Anyone, in particular circumstances, may perform the sacrament of baptism so long as he intends what the Church intends. Finally, baptism calls for the recipient. Adults, children, infants, the mentally handicapped...
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