Baptism is the basis to Christian life, because it is the gateway into the life of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1213). When I was younger, if I came into Mass and there was Holy Water set up in the front, dread swept over me. Mass will be longer! No!!! But, this stance was silly, because I didn’t fully understand what was happening. So, what happens at baptism? Big picture: the baptized receive graces that carry on with them for the rest of their lives.
This article won’t touch on the specifics of getting a child baptized, but will explain what is happening spiritually. To see what the process is to get a child baptized, check out our Baptism page. There you can find a step by step on how to get a child baptized at St. Mary Immaculate.
What is Grace?
Whenever we receive any of the sacraments, we receive grace. Grace is the free gift of God’s love inviting us into deeper relationship with him. Participating in the life of God, helps us grow closer to God, and gives us strength to do so (CCC 1997). The best thing about grace, is that it’s a gift! We don’t necessarily do anything to deserve this grace, but God gives it to us willingly because He loves us. So, the big answer to what happens at baptism, is an outpouring of grace. But what are those graces?
Freedom from Sin
Did you know that the rite of baptism actually contains a minor rite of exorcism? They ain’t messing around! Because, while we have personal sin, the fall of Adam and Eve means we’re also born with original sin. So, the deacon or priest busts out the Sacred Chrism so the candidate can renounce Satan (CCC 1237). With all of your sins forgiven, you have access to the rewards of eternal life.
For a baptism to be valid, it needs to be done with water. Why? The word baptism is actually Greek for the word plunge or immerse. We “plunge” into Christ’s death and resurrection by submerging in the water of life and rise again as a “new creature” (CCC 1214). So, by baptism, you’re literally reborn into new life! Specifically, the new and improved you receives the grace of justification, which bestows on the newly baptized the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, the ability to act under the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the ability to grow in moral virtue (CCC 1266).
Member of Christ
1 Corinthians 12: 13 says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” Which body? Christ’s of course! And the Church makes up the body of Christ. Baptism bonds Christians together as members of Christ, and constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians (CCC 1271). However, those looking to become Catholic should contact their parish RCIA coordinator to figure out their stage of the process in the RCIA process. Because you only get baptized once!
Indelible Spiritual Mark
Lastly, by being incorporated into Christ, baptism leaves a mark on your soul that cannot be erased by any sin. This is why we can only be baptized once, because you only receive the seal of baptism once (CCC 1272). This mark allows us to be saved through baptism.
So as you can see, baptism is kind of a big deal. And if you show up to Mass and discover a baptism is happening during the Mass, don’t groan and get upset that Mass will be 10 minutes longer. Instead, celebrate, knowing the baby being baptized is receiving so much grace!