Baptism or Christening?
The word ‘baptism’ derives from the Greek word meaning ‘to immerse’ and is a reminder of the early Church, when candidates were admitted by total immersion and after careful preparation. ‘Christening’ derives from Anglo-Saxon and means ‘to Christianize’. Although in popular use, the word ‘christening’ is not used in the official liturgies of the Church.
The Church holds that baptism is a gift from God which comes through the ministry of the Church. It is the beginning of the initiation process in which an individual becomes a fully-fledged Christian and a member of the Church. We pray that it will be completed in due course by Confirmation and First Communion.
Sacrament and a sign
Baptism and the Eucharist are the two sacraments instituted by Christ. A sacrament is an ordinary human event to which God gives a special significance. In baptism a person is symbolically washed with water (poured three times over the forehead), signifying the eternal forgiving love of God. It is also a sign of dying with Christ in order to share his risen life.
Growth in the faith
Baptism requires our co-operation. Children are baptized in response to the faith and belief of their parents and godparents, who promise to bring them up in the knowledge of God’s love and of the gift which is given to them in baptism. The Church is there to assist and co-operate.
During the rite of baptism parents and godparents must affirm their personal belief in Christ and their opposition to what is evil. They must profess a faith in God who is the creator and who is revealed in the life of Jesus Christ, and in the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit.
It is customary for a girl to have two godmothers and one godfather, and for a boy to have two godfathers and one godmother. This is not mandatory and can be varied, but godparents must be selected on the basis of their knowledge and profession of the Christian faith and on their expressed willingness to help parents raise the child in that faith. They must also be ready in the years ahead to answer questions about Christianity that the growing child may put to them.
Because of the specifically Christian vows that godparents are required to make at a baptism, it is not possible for non-Christians (whether of another faith or of no faith) to be given this role.