I hope you have seen for the past few months the names of the children who get baptized in our parish. It’s a great sign of life in our parish. Please send up a prayer for the child and the family each time you see the welcome/congratulations we put in the bulletin. Sometimes we hear people challenge our Catholic practice of infant baptism. But once you see what baptism really is, why would you not baptize infants?
First of all, there are several places in Scripture where it is pretty clear that “whole households” were baptized into the Faith (cf., e.g., Acts 10; 16:15, 30-34; 1Cor 1:16). There is no reason to assume that these households did not include infants. And it has been the Church’s understanding since the very first century that infants could be baptized. Of course, there were many adult converts in the earliest years of the Church, but this does not negate the reality of infant baptisms. There is no evidence in Scripture or Tradition that baptism was ever reserved only to adult converts to the Faith. Consider also passages like Mark 10:13-16, where Jesus says, “Let the children come to me.” The greatest way to bring a child to Jesus is to bring the child to baptism. Then, of course, you help the Lord build on that baptism by teaching the Faith at home, witnessing to it by your life, etc. So Scripture indicates whole households, which certainly contained some children. And the Church has always understood it this way (the Church which wrote the Scripture!).
Then, consider all that baptism brings to the child. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (par. 1213) summarizes it very concisely: “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word.’”
Jesus puts a “character” on the soul that is permanent, i.e., it literally remains with the soul into heaven. That character makes the soul capable of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The child becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit, therefore. Then the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are infused into the soul. These virtues guide the rest of the human virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) to a heavenly goal. Faith is intellectual assent to God’s truths, including trust and obedience. Hope is the expectation that relationship with God will result in goodness for us. Charity/love leads the person to offer his/her life to God in humble service. All of that begins by baptizing the child.
So, considering Scripture and Tradition from the very start of the Church, and then considering the great effects of Baptism…. why wouldn’t you baptize an infant? It’s parallel to the same way you choose for a child what will nourish biologically (what food to eat), since the child cannot choose on his/her own. Likewise you choose for the child who cannot yet choose on his/her own what will nourish spiritually (of deeper importance than the physical nourishment!).
Thank the Lord for the sacrament of Baptism! Hopefully this article can help you explain to your friends our beautiful Catholic practice of infant Baptism. Please do pray for the children you see welcomed in our baptismal announcements. May they become saints!
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,