Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. This Feast brings us to the end of the Christmas season and begins the liturgical season known as “ordinary time.” In the first reading God calls Isaiah to proclaim His mercy to the people. The reading beautifully describes of the goodness of God. The second reading taken from Saint Paul’s letter to Titus may have been a confession of faith used in the Baptismal liturgy of the early Church. It contains the main themes of Christian faith and morality—moderation, justice, honesty, piety, and hope. The Gospel presents us with the meeting between Jesus and John the Baptist at the River Jordan. Inspired from above, John declares Jesus as the One sent by God and identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God: “Behold the lamb of God.” We all participate in the same baptism and God calls us as His sons and daughters. With His baptism by John, Jesus begins His public ministry.
Baptism is the prime Sacrament for Christians. I, therefore, dedicate the rest of my column in helping you understand the meaning of this Sacrament, the roles of parents and godparents and the procedures that need to be followed for Baptism. Through Baptism, a person is welcomed into the company of Jesus as a member of the Body of Christ. At Santa Sophia Parish, we celebrate the Baptism of infants following the 11:00 am Mass on the third Sunday of every month. Baptisms, as well as other Sacraments, are community celebrations which remind us of our own Baptism and also of our responsibility towards the newly baptized and parents in helping the newly baptized to grow in faith.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) instructs us that parents are the primary teachers of faith to their children. How do parents become the primary teachers, and how do they teach the faith? Through word and example, parents teach their children such things as having a sense of their own goodness as children of God and a sense of trust in others. Thus, in God who loves them, they will obtain a sense of belonging, an understanding of forgiveness and reconciliation, a reverence for all creation, and also an appreciation of religious traditions. In asking to have their child baptized, parents take on the responsibility of raising their child in the Faith. This includes participating in Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, praying as a family, teaching your child Bible stories as well as instructing them in the teachings and traditions of the Church.
Parents must give prayerful consideration to the choice of godparents. Godparents, together with the child’s parents, publicly profess the Catholic Faith into which the child is baptized. A godparent accepts the responsibility of helping the child grow in the Catholic Faith. A godparent agrees to help the parents teach the child about the Faith and how to live as a practicing Catholic. To become a godparent, one must be at least sixteen years of age, have already received all of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion), attend Mass regularly, and be living in a way that demonstrates that one’s Faith is strong enough to be able to fulfill the responsibilities of a godparent. A godparent who is married must be married in accordance with the laws of the Catholic Church. One godparent is required, but two may be chosen. If two are chosen, they must be of opposite genders. A baptized non-Catholic Christian may serve with the Catholic godparent as a Christian witness to the baptism.
There are also certain policies regarding infant Baptisms at Santa Sophia Parish. The parents must be registered members of the parish for at least three months and must be active in the practice of the Faith. If you are an active parishioner who is interested in having your child Baptized at Santa Sophia Parish, please call Donna Hernandez at the Catechetical Ministry Office (CMO) for an appointment to initiate the process. I will then meet with you to discuss your family’s preparedness for Baptism. Prior to Baptism, parents and godparents must attend two seminars organized by the parish. Attendance of these seminars is important because you may likely learn new things about your own Faith, and in the process, you may discover that you have something important to offer to your child regarding this Faith.
If a godparent is an active member of another parish, our parish will accept another parish’s requirements for becoming a godparent. Parents from other parishes who wish to have their child baptized at Santa Sophia Parish are welcome to do so after they have completed the requirements of their home parish. Once we receive a letter from their pastor giving permission for the Baptism to be celebrated at Santa Sophia, we will be glad to perform the Baptism, formally welcoming your child into the Catholic Faith. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Catechetical Ministry Office.