: "Today most Catholics are in no great hurry to have their children baptized. In the past, the practice was to baptize children as soon as possible after birth. Now, medical technology has decreased danger for newborns, seemingly removing the urgency for immediate baptism. Add to this the widely publicized recommendation by the International Theological Commission to abolish the doctrine of limbo, a place of natural happiness, but deprived of the vision of God for unbaptized infants, and suddenly there seems no compelling reason to rush to the baptismal font.
Yet even without fears of imminent danger, baptism remains an urgent sacrament that should be conferred upon infants as soon as possible after birth. In the words of St. Peter on the first Pentecost, baptism both forgives sins and imparts the gift of the Holy Spirit. These are spiritual gifts par excellence that all Catholics of all ages and sizes require to live their respective vocations in the world. Therefore, baptism remains vital and relevant even in the lives of adults who were baptized decades ago.
Baptism, followed by confirmation and the Eucharist, is the first of the sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church. As noted in the first column of this series, the sacraments are necessary for salvation; baptism is the foundation of this promised salvation since through it recipients are born spiritually and given a share in the inner life of the Trinity. Sacraments are physical signs of God’s invisible grace of salvation. In baptism, the physical matter of water combines with the formal prayer “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” to confer the grace of the sacrament.
Many wonderful gifts are imparted by baptismal grace, but baptism itself is a gift God freely bestows on those whom He wills. Infant baptism highlights the sheer gratuity of God’s generosity, as infants obviously do not ask for the sacrament themselves. But even when parents have their children baptized, or when converts approach the baptismal waters at the Easter Vigil, they have done so only because God has called them first. -Read More