Beliefs about baptism

In the Roman Catholic Church infant baptism is a way in which parents can give thanks to God for the gift of their child. According to Catholic teaching it also brings about important changes in the life of the child.

  • Forgiveness of sins – all sins are forgiven, both original sin and personal sin.
  • Adoption as a child of God – the child now has a spiritual side to his/her nature and belongs to Christ.
  • Membership of the body of Christ – this means the child is now a member of the Church and can have unity with other Christians.

Symbols used in baptism

  • Water – this symbolises cleansing and new life. The baptismal water washes away the child’s original sin. There is death to the old life and the new child of God can now share in the eternal life promised by Christ.
  • Oil – in Bible times, kings were anointed on the head with oil as a sign of being chosen by God to perform a special task. In the baptismal ceremony, oil symbolises that each child has been chosen by God.
  • White garment – the early Christians put on white garments after they had been baptised to show that Christ had cleansed their sins. The white shawl placed around the child today symbolises the same thing.
  • Light – the candle handed to the child’s parents is a challenge to carry the light of Christ in a dark world. This candle is lit from the Paschal candle and it symbolises that the faith of the Catholic Church is being passed to the child.