How to Baptise
Last Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, I preached on the Sacrament of Baptism and its importance, and as I do each year on this Feast, I explained that in an emergency anyone can baptise. I’ve had a couple of requests to put this part in writing.
In ordinary circumstances it is the priest who baptises. He knows what to do and how to do it. But in cases of emergency, (this means danger of death), anyone can baptise who has the right intention. The one baptising need not be a Catholic or even a Christian. All they need to do is to intend to do what the Catholic Church wants done. This is essential because if Christ made Baptism necessary for salvation, He also laid down the requirements which the Church has always observed. So the person baptising should know how.
So this is what you do. You will need clean, pure water, and it must be only water. You pour the water over the head of the person being baptised so as it flows over the skin, saying at the same time the words, “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The same person must say the words and pour the water. A person can only be baptised once, so if you’re not sure the person is already baptised you say, “If you are not baptised, I baptise you in the name of the Father…” This is what is called a Conditional Baptism. If the person is already baptised they won’t be baptised again, but if they aren’t baptised, and they’re open to it, you have validly baptised them and opened to them the gates of Heaven and eternal life. One should never practice doing this on a person, but you could practice on a doll.
If you ever have to do an emergency Baptism, you should tell the priest after, and should the baptised person recover, the other ceremonies can be supplied in the church, for example the exorcisms and anointings. But the Baptism itself is never repeated because what you have done is a valid administration of the Sacrament.
In today’s Gospel (John 2:1-11), JESUS changed water into wine at the Wedding in Cana: an amazing miracle, but what happens each time a person is baptised is a far greater miracle because we are changed from children of wrath under the dominion of the devil into children of God and become participators in the divine life. We are, as it were, incorporated into the divine DNA. Theologians say that God, in JESUS, became what we are, so that we might become what He is. The early Christians called this ‘divinisation’ or ‘deification’. We become by grace what God is by nature. That is why God became man, and that is why He gave us Baptism.
So what a wonderful gift Baptism is, something we can do nothing to earn. It is a completely free gift God wants to give to all. Do you know the date of your Baptism? If not, try and find out and celebrate it like you do your birthday, because Baptism is your birth into eternal life in Christ.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC