ANZAC Memorial Chapel of St Paul

Baptism Advice

The Sacrament of Baptism is often called “The door of the Church,” because it is the first of the seven sacraments not only in time (since most Catholics receive it as infants) but in priority, since the reception of the other sacraments depends on it. It is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation, the other two being Confirmation and Holy Communion. Once baptised, a person becomes a member of the Church.

Christ Himself instructed His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations and to baptise those who accept the message of the Gospel. In His encounter with Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-12) Christ made it clear that baptism was necessary for salvation: “Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” For Catholics, the sacrament is not a mere formality; it is the very mark of a Christian, because it brings us into new life in Christ.

I would ask you to consider prayerfully the Godparents/Christian Witnesses for your child:
When a child or an adult is to be baptised, he or she must have at least one godparent or sponsor (the terms are interchangeable). It is customary for children to have two godparents. When there are two, one must be male and the other female. Godparents must meet all of the following criteria, which are established by universal Church law and which do not vary from place to place.

Godparents must:
(a) be Catholic
(b) have been baptised, confirmed and receive Communion
(c) be 16 or older (although there may be exceptions to this rule at the discretion of the bishop)
(d) must be living a life consistent with their own baptismal vows.

This means that they must be practicing the faith, cannot be engaging in notorious sin, and cannot have taken public positions in opposition to Catholic faith or morals. If a sponsor is married, their marriage must be recognised by the Church.

People sometimes object to the requirements for a sponsor. They argue that parents should have freedom to choose the sponsor of a child who is to be baptised. In order to understand the Church’s position, several points must be kept in mind.

Baptism is not a private act. It is a public, official liturgy of the Church and welcomes someone into the Catholic Church. Therefore, the Church has the duty and obligation to require reasonable criteria for being a sponsor. The sponsor is to assist the parents and the child in living a Catholic life. In order to do so, the sponsor needs to provide good example of living that life. A person who is not Catholic, or who is not living in a way consistent with the faith, obviously cannot provide the example that is part of the task of being a godparent. The role of godparent is a role of service done in the name of the Church, and the person who is a sponsor should be capable of performing that service.

If there is one godparent, Church law does permit, but does not encourage, the appointment of one ‘Christian witness’ to the baptism ceremony. This witness must be a baptised, upright, non-Catholic Christian. This ‘Christian witness’ takes part in the ceremony but is not a godparent. A former Catholic, a non-baptised person, or someone who does not live a virtuous Christian life are unable to be a Christian witness.